TALI GIRLS

A NOVEL OF AFGHANISTAN

Eloquent and saddening.

The lives of three Afghan girls reflect a legacy of oppression.

In the year 2006, the village of Tali has “no electricity, no plumbing for water, no paved roads.” “Wretch” is a common term for females. A girl “marries when the man of the house says so. And then she breeds and cooks and cleans. It is life, my dear.” Yet in this bleak environment, there are moments of hope and happiness. A school opens, giving girls a break from chores to learn to read and write. Some men are kind, supportive. But these moments are few and quickly fade under the constraints of tradition and the spreading pall of Islamic orthodoxy. One day, armed Taliban forces arrive, set the books and blackboards on fire, and take over the schoolhouse, seeking land and workers to produce opium. They’re allied with the powerful, corrupt Director of Religious Education, Mawlawi Khodadad, who will affect the village terribly. Herawi, a former Afghan government spokesman who works as a writer and journalist in London, tells the story of three Tali girls mostly through their own voices. There are echoes here of Miriam Toews’s Women Talking. Kowsar is spared marriage to the 58-year-old Khodadad at age 9 because of her fainting spells. Her friend Simin, also 9, becomes his next choice and barely survives the physical injuries of her wedding night. The third girl, Geesu, seeks to escape an arranged marriage by fleeing the village with her young boyfriend. Herawi’s first novel to be published in the U.S. has been rendered into clear, pointed prose by Khalili. He uses the pervasive rituals of household and village life to provide color and context and displays compelling empathy when he contrasts older women’s anger and resignation with the girls’ shock and despair upon realizing the physical and emotional imprisonment they face.

Eloquent and saddening.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9781953861665

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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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