For the right reader, this jigsaw puzzle of a novel will be a pleasure.

LECH

A motley crew of neighbors gets through the summer of 2014 in Sullivan County, New York.

Lippmann's first novel after two story collections features an ensemble cast of characters ranging from vintage quirky to seriously damaged, all with complicated backstories and interlocking current problems. The eponymous Lech is Ira Lecher, a 66-year-old divorcé who lives up to his name. He rents out a room to visitors in his house on Murmur Lake, aka Murder Lake due to a drowning years back. Lech's current guests are a young woman named Beth and her precocious, allergy-ridden, almost-5-year-old son, Zach. Beth is fleeing New York City and her irritating husband after an abortion: "Two days have passed since the D&C about which she’s told no one. (The procedure sounded like a mall shop for tweens. I love your top. Did you get that at D&C?)" Lippmann's rapid-fire narrative style seems to pay homage to Borscht Belt schtick, but here and elsewhere it can be hard to know what emotion is expected from the reader concerning disturbing sexual situations and unhappy characters. Tzvi, for example, is a Hasidic Jew and a drug dealer—"He is servicing a need. Better him than a shegetz [non-Jewish boy]." Bada bing. But Tzvi is also the son of the woman who drowned—he was only 3 years old at the time—and is still haunted by the mysteries of that loss. If it sounds like there's a lot to try to make sense of in this novel, there is, including what is arguably the main plotline, which is about a grifter-y real estate agent trying to interest investors in the property surrounding Murmur Lake, which neither Lech nor the creepy farmer who owns the adjoining parcel wants to sell. This storyline and others unfold in brief chapters alternating among the points of view of five of the characters.

For the right reader, this jigsaw puzzle of a novel will be a pleasure.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-94895-469-3

Page Count: 319

Publisher: Tortoise Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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

IT STARTS WITH US

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 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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