BITTERROOT

A gripping and emotionally intelligent tale of resentment and loss.

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In Vitello’s novel, a young widow grapples with an attack on her family.

The small former mining town of Steeplejack rests at the foot of Idaho’s Bitterroot Mountains. It’s there that Hazel Zapf was raised, and where she returns after some years away to marry her high school sweetheart, Ethan Mackenzie, and work as a forensic artist. “I draw dead and maimed bodies for a living,” Hazel puts it simply. Of Japanese descent on her mother’s side, Hazel likens the work to the tradition of Kusôzu, “the practice of capturing the beauty of a posthumous body’s organic decomposition. It serves as a meditation on impermanence and transcendence.” When, a few years into their marriage, Ethan is killed in a car accident, Hazel’s first impulse is to draw his body, there in the morgue, as a way of processing the loss. Soon after Ethan’s death, Hazel finds herself playing landlord to Corinda Blair, the surrogate mother of her gay twin brother’s baby, a woman she has despised since high school. When that brother, Kento, is shot at the baby’s gender reveal party by the surrogate’s estranged husband, Hazel finds herself at the center of a trial that unleashes a flood of racism and resentment against her family that has been building for generations. Might the rediscovered letters of her great-grandfather, a Japanese American veteran whose family was interned during the Second World War, provide a lesson on how Hazel should move forward? Vitello’s crystalline prose elegantly captures the numbing grief that grips Hazel for much of the novel. Here she describes her own awareness of it as she focuses on building a house in the aftermath of Ethan’s death: “Even as the new house took shape, I remained frozen. Inert as a slug during summer’s drought. The folks at Grief Group had finally stopped calling, and one day, I woke up to the realization that if I kept pushing folks away, I would, soon, be peopleless.” These memorable characters nimbly embody the larger cultural forces at war in contemporary America.

A gripping and emotionally intelligent tale of resentment and loss.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781960573964

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Sibylline Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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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