THE THREAD COLLECTORS

Well-intentioned but overly familiar.

This collaboration by longtime friends Edwards and Richman draws on the authors’ Black and Jewish family histories to build an expressly uplifting Civil War fiction.

The novel begins in 1863 New Orleans, showcasing the forbidden but abiding love between musically gifted William, a classically trained flutist who’s enslaved, and Stella, who lives technically free as the kept woman of William’s current owner. With Stella’s aid, William escapes to join the Union Army as a member of the Louisiana Native Guard. Meanwhile, in New York, trombonist and composer Jacob has been inspired by his wife, Lily, a suffragette and abolitionist, to join the Union forces on moral grounds. The novel balances three intertwining narratives: Pregnant with a child who could be William’s or his master’s, Stella struggles to survive in Union-controlled New Orleans, where food is scarce and Confederate insurrection a constant threat; William and Jacob experience wartime atrocities while their unlikely friendship deepens through their music connection; and in New York, Lily devotes herself to the Union cause with genteel moral certainty until she ventures South in search of Jacob and faces her naïveté about the war’s cost. Given that African Americans in the South had everything to gain or lose in this war, it is no surprise that Stella’s and William’s segments are the most compelling; the writing about New Orleans also creates a sensual, specific sense of place missing elsewhere. Lily reads like a mouthpiece for enlightened concepts, even in her love letters. There is no romantic chemistry between her and Jacob, who remains an undeveloped cipher. What should be an interesting twist, his discomfort as a Jewish outsider in the Union ranks, barely resonates, while his bonding with William comes too easily. All four protagonists are more noble symbols than characters, and key plot points—including Stella’s stitched maps and Jacob’s estrangement from his Confederate brother—border on Civil War story clichés.

Well-intentioned but overly familiar.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-525-89978-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Graydon House

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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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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