A purposefully digressive and storm-clouded narrative, appropriate for capturing a Syrian expatriate’s mood.


A Syrian woman reckons with personal illness in parallel with the destruction of her homeland.

Syria’s ongoing civil war provides the backdrop for Ujayli’s third novel (Persian Carpet, 2013, etc.) but doesn’t claim center stage; indeed, one theme of this globe-trotting, fatalistic tale is that catastrophes large and small lurk even if we escape a war zone. The narrator, Joumane Badran, is a Syrian native and humanitarian worker in her 30s living in Amman, Jordan, while her father and two sisters have remained in Syria, relating grim news of bombings and power plays by the “squalid archipelago of factions” there. Joumane herself witnesses the impact secondhand, monitoring a refugee camp in Jordan, but the bulk of the novel focuses on two more interior concerns: her budding relationship with Nasser al-Amireh, a climate expert, and a cancer diagnosis that leaves her fearing death, wracked from chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Or, in other words, she’s focused on love and mortality, and her narrative sinuously moves from moments of grace to calamity and tragedy, past and present. Tales of coincidence and harsh irony abound, as when Joumane recalls that she'd met her oncologist decades earlier on family trips to Italy and that he’d gotten his degree in time to monitor his stepfather’s death. That’s just one case in which Ujayli ties up plotlines with a jet-black bow, but for all its concern with mortality and entropy, there’s plenty of narrative and intellectual energy in the story, as when Joumane recalls her father’s travels (he witnessed the 1963 March on Washington) or her friends' and sisters’ love affairs, which are tinged with mythos (Pygmalion, pirates). “The final truth is that your body is your homeland and the greatest treason is for it to betray itself,” she writes, and the novel thoughtfully maps where self, family, and country intersect.

A purposefully digressive and storm-clouded narrative, appropriate for capturing a Syrian expatriate’s mood.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62371-983-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Interlink

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

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