At first, Nissen’s narrator (Osprey Island, 2004, etc.) seems clever and voluble, so daring with her spanking-scene opener,...

OUR LADY OF THE PRAIRIE

Against the backdrop of the Bush-Kerry election, an Iowa Democrat has a midlife crisis that gives the tornadoes that rip through the state a run for their money.

The timing of Phillipa Maakestad’s decision to tell her husband about her passionate affair is unfortunate—the two theater professors are due to play parents of the bride at their daughter Ginny’s wedding to a wonderful Amish boy. The responsibility is torqued by the facts that his parents, who were close friends of Phillipa’s, were killed when an SUV hit their buggy and raising Ginny has been like a scene out of The Exorcist. Bulimic, addicted, promiscuous, filled with rage—Ginny has touched all the bases. After they get through the (literal) tornado that strikes the wedding, the Ginny problem is finally solved, though not for long. And by then, Phillipa herself has gone off the rails, living in a cheap motel, phoning in her classes, and freaking out about the election. If the author did not intend the Bush-era political ravings to be alienating, she overshot the mark. “Passing the monstrous W barn on 26, I wanted to drive up onto the grass, get out of my car, and hammer on the door, shouting ‘How do you live with yourselves? Why not put up an I’m a Greedy Bigot sign?'” Then, after a flash of self-awareness (I sound like Ginny! she thinks), she returns to form. “The miserable world into which I brought my own miserable child, now a miserable adult, fully aware and sickened to the marrow of her bones by the injustice of this godforsaken place, and as wholly incapable as her pathetic mother to do a goddamn thing about it. About anything. How does anyone with a conscience…do anything but cry, all day every day, navigating this godforsaken world.” This sort of thing, combined with random classist comments—on the baby of a woman she drives to the polls: “Travis: a name destined for the meth den”—seems designed to make the reader hate liberals. Throw in church-sign puns and musicals you can’t get out of your head and a whole mininovel about Nazis in France…whew.

At first, Nissen’s narrator (Osprey Island, 2004, etc.) seems clever and voluble, so daring with her spanking-scene opener, but eventually she wears a bit thin.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-66207-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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