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MADRID AGAIN

A compelling and poignant journey of self-discovery that spans continents and generations.

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A Spanish American professor uncovers her rich family history in Maura’s novel.

In the 1960s, Odilia falls for a man named Zimmerman after she attends one of his lectures in Madrid. She finds out that they were both raised in Spain, but the rest of Zimmerman’s background remains mysterious. Rumors suggest that he works for the CIA, partly because he spends considerable time in the United States. After a whirlwind courtship, he convinces Odilia to move with him to upstate New York, where she serves as his teaching assistant at a small college. They marry, and Odilia gives birth to Lola—the narrator, who later becomes a professor herself; she relates the story of her parents over the course of the novel. Soon after Lola’s birth, Zimmerman disappears. Lola and her mother live in small-town Vermont and then in Massachusetts, frequently visiting Odilia’s family in Spain. Lola struggles without a father figure: “I secretly hoped he was dead, because that was the only excuse that would justify the fact that he was not with us.” As an adult, she pieces together her family history—learning, for example, that her father was in fact a prominent anti-fascist and a member of the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom. The depiction of Odilia’s background feels rushed, with quite a bit of summary, but the novel shines when Lola narrates her own life. Maura vividly captures Lola’s multifaceted childhood, as in this description of her grandmother’s kitchen, where the cook pummels veal cutlets with “the menacing blows of her large gray stone, shaped like a rather flat Idaho potato.” By comparison, New England, where the adults “seem sad” and “have cottage cheese for lunch,” feels bleak, indeed. There’s a well-crafted moment when Lola is on a flight to Spain, during which she clutches motion sickness bags, chews Dramamine pills, and resents the smell of “American brewed coffee…that wafted out of the airborne kitchenette.” It’s a stunning sequence that effectively dramatizes her conflicted feelings about the two countries she calls home.

A compelling and poignant journey of self-discovery that spans continents and generations.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951627-12-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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