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BETWEEN THE CRACKS

THE LIFE OF AN ORDINARY WOMAN WITH EXTRA ORDINARY GIFTS

A rich, evocative tale of growing up in Canada.

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In this coming-of-age novel, a young woman grapples with faith and unusual powers.

Bradley’s bildungsroman tells the story of Grace MacGregor. A brief prologue informs readers of Grace’s gifts, which include sensing someone’s past and future and even traveling through time. But the prologue is a bit of misdirection; Grace’s first-person narration is a detailed and largely realistic depiction of growing up after the Depression. In the opening chapters, she fondly recalls her childhood in Northwestern Ontario with her resourceful mother and handy father, an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Grace, eager to attend school, is entranced by her older brother Joey’s books. Even though she can’t read them, she pores over the stories from The Lives of Saints. Her interest spawns an ambition. “When I grew up and was a teenager,” she thinks, “I was going to be a saint.” The gift Grace uses the most is her ability to see light coming off people. For instance, in the presence of pubescent teens, she notices: “They had all these oranges and reds streaming out of their privates and yet they still glowed the baby colours around their hearts.” The first of the novel’s four sections collects such family memories as an exciting summer trip to Biscotasing, her father’s hometown. In the second section, Grace attends school; a serious student, she challenges her teacher, disturbing the nun. In the third section, “Leaving Town,” Grace’s sexual awakening unfortunately coincides with her enrollment in a convent boarding school. The author enumerates the miseries of the school and how most of Grace’s classmates attend against their will, “under duress.” Grace eventually changes schools; at age 16, she becomes a teacher. She experiences her first real romances, including an ill-fated one. Her powers help her see what’s coming: “Somewhere deep inside was a niggling that it wasn’t going to happen for me the way I would like it to.”

This series opener is a treasure trove of details and vivid characters. Grace certainly has intriguing abilities, but her powers don’t make the book more compelling. If anything, they at times distract from the well-wrought and intricate story of a Canadian family getting by. Bradley has a keen eye for detail. Grace describes how her Italian grandfather, her mother’s father, “rolled out the large blob of fresh pasta dough with a clean broom handle, and with a huge butcher knife cut it in fine strips.” While miserably hungry at the convent, Grace lists the food she squirrels away: “An ear of cold raw corn from the pantry, the starch making it barely edible; leftover boiled potatoes already turning greyish-black from having been left exposed on a pantry counter.” The novel’s main achievement is Grace, whose unusual powers mirror her strange temperament. The author skillfully captures the earnestness and innocence of Grace’s divine aspirations. “Please God, I didn’t mean to laugh at them,” she prays, when a pool hall proprietress falls on top of a priest. “Hope this doesn’t ruin things as I study to be a saint?” Moving through the years, Bradley’s chronicle reveals the youthful impatience to mature and be important but pauses here and there to sketch indelible portraits of human triumph and tragedy.

A rich, evocative tale of growing up in Canada.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Tellwell Talent

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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