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NOT A RIVER

Poignant storytelling about loss and resilience.

Argentine writer Almada writes about a fishing trip and the ghosts it conjures.

This brief novel, translated from Spanish by McDermott, tells the story of two men, Enero and El Negro, who embark on a fishing trip on a nameless South American river with a teenager named Tilo, the son of their late friend Eusebio. After spending hours struggling to reel in a stingray, they end up shooting it before hanging it from a tree and letting it rot. The narrative alternates between the present, in which local men take offense at the treatment of the stingray and young women distract the fishermen, and a series of past events whose significance is slowly and uncannily laid bare. Curious, dreamlike patterns emerge in the presentation of settings and motifs—the river itself, night clubs, accidental death, toxic masculinity, nature’s indifferent potency—hauntingly connecting disparate characters and times. With the exception of a few more ornate flourishes, the writing, especially the dialogue, is lean and impactful, and often reflects a sense of morbid inevitability: “She lay on the bed with the ashtray on her belly. Planning to stay put and wait for the news. Not of Eusebio’s death, she knew he was dead, there was no hope, the guy had told her. The news that the body had been found.” Repetitions, both verbal and physical, reinforce a sense of fatalism, often suggested in characters’ guilty and inexorable self-interrogations. The world we encounter here is full of its own rot, and a sense of suffocating entrapment is widespread. Tragic things have been and somehow must keep happening in this riverine milieu. Nevertheless, the author skillfully locates an insistent commitment to life and love in several of her characters—a stubborn strength that resists decay and affirms the worth of human bonds.

Poignant storytelling about loss and resilience.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781644452851

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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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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