Brandoff’s debut novel has a few dissonant moments, but its detailed portrait of a self-destructive character retains a...

CORNELIUS SKY

A doorman in 1970s New York City makes a series of bad decisions regarding his livelihood, family, and sobriety.

The title character, also known as Connie, has a contrarian streak and a penchant for heavy drinking—both among the reasons he has difficulty holding down a job and why his wife has kicked him out of their home. Connie drifts in and out of various bars, as well as his place of employment, a posh Fifth Avenue building, having halting and philosophical conversations with people he encounters. Brandoff writes precisely about Connie’s mental state and lucidity: “His Rolodex of drunks included full-blown blackouts, wherein days and, in a handful of cases, weeks of the calendar got recessed for good, but more generally he browned out.” Eventually, Brandoff reveals that Connie’s father committed suicide in a way that also killed Connie’s younger brother. It’s a detail that helps explain why Connie feels compelled to numb himself and why his connections to his loved ones oscillate between tenderness and something more bitter. Certain details reinforce themes of dysfunctional families: Connie takes in a production of Eugene O'Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten, and he befriends the 13-year-old son of a deceased former president who bears more than a passing resemblance to John F. Kennedy Jr. and is one of the tenants of the building where he works. But the presence of celebrity in this narrative never clicks with its focus on Connie, making for some awkward tonal shifts. When Brandoff focuses on the details of New York City life, he establishes an atmospheric, lived-in quality. But a tendency to sum up certain descriptions too neatly leaves some passages feeling heavy-handed.

Brandoff’s debut novel has a few dissonant moments, but its detailed portrait of a self-destructive character retains a haunting power.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61775-708-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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...

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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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