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RAINWATER

Mediocre, but with the author’s track record and a pre-Christmas release, how can it fail?

Megaseller Brown (Smash Cut, 2009, etc.) tries her hand at historical fiction in this slight tale of a Depression-era landlady and her mysterious boarder.

Gilead, Texas—1934, population 5,000, if you don’t count the unfortunates inhabiting the shantytown on the city limits—is reeling from the ravages of the crash and the drought, but Ella Barron’s boarding house is an enclave of efficient domesticity. With the help of her black maid Margaret, Ella serves three squares a day, handles arduous Monday washdays and keeps an impeccable house for her tenants, a travelling salesman and two spinsters. Her husband skipped town some time ago, and Ella’s ten-year-old son Solly is given to strange compulsions and fits that their family physician, Dr. Kincaid, can’t diagnose. (Autism-spectrum disorders were then unknown.) Into Ella’s regimented life comes Mr. Rainwater, Kincaid’s cancer-stricken distant cousin. A prosperous former cotton broker, lanky, handsome Rainwater has decided to spend his final weeks at Ella’s boardinghouse. Despite his moribund condition and bouts of severe pain, he is a quixotic social activist. Drought-impoverished cattle farmers are being forced to sell their starving herds to a government program that dispatches the cattle on site, burying the emaciated carcasses in huge ditches. When ranchers allow Shantytown residents to scavenge the ditches for meat, a gang led by town bully Conrad Ellis, whose family meatpacking business is threatened, terrorizes scavengers and ranchers alike. Conrad is only temporarily deterred by the group resistance organized by Rainwater; an eventual showdown between the two is as inevitable as the romance between Ella and Rainwater, who moves her by seeing the savant in Solly where others see only idiocy. Despite Brown’s earnest dramatization of the era’s horrors, including racial prejudice, lynching, homelessness and hunger, the novel never achieves the pathos she aims for. Her characters are simply too wooden, her Depression too much like a sepia-tinted souvenir photo.

Mediocre, but with the author’s track record and a pre-Christmas release, how can it fail?

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-7277-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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