A prescient, sometimes-lyrical book about memory, genealogy, and destiny.

HEART WOOD

FOUR WOMEN, FOR THE EARTH, FOR THE FUTURE

DicKard’s debut novel tells the story of multiple generations of female activists, environmentalists, and community organizers.

The author chronicles the lives of Eliza, who comes of age in the 1800s; Harmony, who lives in the present day; and Amisha, whose narrative begins in 2075. Eliza is the matriarch of the family and the owner of a special desk made of an oak’s “heart wood.” The desk imbues its owners with a love of the land and a calling to protect the Earth from ecological destruction. Harmony, the only character’s voice rendered in first person, witnesses firsthand the rapid environmental destruction caused by corporate manipulation and greed. She refuses to sell, or even leave, her homestead in Luna Valley, Northern California, as many of her neighbors have, and she commits to growing her own food and working with local environmental activists to offset a seemingly inevitable disaster. Decades later, Amisha will find her way back to this homestead in an effort to try to reconnect to the Earth. The desk inexplicably “call[s]” her back to her family’s property, where she pores through Harmony’s journals and communes with nature. She heeds Eliza’s warning from almost 200 years ago: “If we don’t make protecting our earth the heart of everything we do…then everything else we do will be in vain.” Over the course of this book, DicKard deftly oscillates among three time periods, which keeps the narrative moving forward at a brisk pace. Although the book can be polemical in tone, the author peppers her prose with lyricism; for example, like the women before her, Amisha finds solace in the forest’s “silence…like soft moss” or the scent of tomato: “old and earthy, touched with a tinge of long ago.” Striking metaphors (“Night closed its blanket of darkness”) paint a vivid portrait of the world and ominously show what could become of it if people don’t take the necessary steps to save it. Occasional moments, as when Harmony humorously calls email an “electronic phone tree,” provide a necessary levity in an otherwise sobering story.

A prescient, sometimes-lyrical book about memory, genealogy, and destiny.

Pub Date: March 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73453-640-9

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Sierra Muses Press

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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