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HOPE YOU ARE SATISFIED

A suspenseful story stowed in the moment before a major historical event.

In the months between Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and the war that might end life as she knows it, a young Indian woman attempts to build a future.

Dubai’s Discover Arabia Tours has been low on bookings since the nearby invasion. Even so, Riya shepherds her few remaining guests from pristine beaches to desert safaris, pointing out the camel caravans without mentioning that their young riders are indentured servants. Riya herself is stuck in the “paradise" she spends her time shilling. At home in India, Riya’s struggling family eagerly awaits each remittance. A visit home would cost Riya her job and her visa, so she stays, working for paychecks she wires away as soon as she earns them, building a life in a country where citizenship is unachievable. As Riya puts it: “Forever was an impossibility here.” When César Rodriguez, a dodgy import/export magnate, selects Riya for a dangerous job, she must decide whether to risk everything for a chance at more. Riya and her colleagues, a pack of young international professionals, dream of faraway futures while George H.W. Bush’s ultimatum ticks closer and closer to war. They inhabit a kind of hyperpresent in their brand new city whose future is as uncertain as their own. In December, when rumor spreads that charcoal might prove useful in the event of chemical warfare, the group manages to scrounge up enough to fuel their beach barbecue. Leaving the war to the epilogue, Malik’s novel tautly occupies the in between. Dubai itself pulls many of the strings, with a dark glamour that outshines the protagonist’s nebulous inner life. Riya’s understanding of and involvement in international affairs prove more interesting than her personal conflicts, which are resolved in a rush. Despite an uneven plot, Malik manages to propel the reader forward while conveying the stagnation of Riya’s circumstances.

A suspenseful story stowed in the moment before a major historical event.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781951213695

Page Count: 225

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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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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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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