Tales that present emotionally complex characters with empathy and insight.

YOU CAN TELL ME ANYTHING

STORIES

Themes of escape and longing ripple the calm surfaces of small Florida towns in this volume of short stories.

Like the howl of a faraway train whistle in the darkest hours of a small-town night, this thoughtful assemblage conjures up feelings of lonely goodbyes—and sometimes desperate escapes. In the collection’s first tale, “Welcome to Silver Springs, We Hate To See You Go,” a woman flees a lover who abuses their dog, but she is also escaping her oppressive hometown. Deep feelings are prevalent in these stories, and sometimes unattainable desire turns into dramatic fantasy. In “Mrs. Shiloh Sings to Her Dead Husband,” a lonely woman swears she saw a friend’s husband come back from the dead. And a mother helps her bullied son chase the mythical “chupacabra” beast in “Do You Believe?” Egnoski’s razor-sharp command of descriptive language is notable. Examining one small town, she writes: “Midway, population 2864, was as small as the period at the bottom of a question mark.” The multifaceted characters who inhabit these humid worlds are often societal outsiders—in “The Last Resort,” a low-income boy is determined to flee a special needs class. Lack of communication is also a difficulty. The title story focuses on a father quietly grappling with his teenage daughter’s abortion while he tends to a sick horse. Reflecting the struggles of the working class in an economic downturn, both the landscapes and the people are gloomy, with abandoned housing developments and men who have been on unemployment so long they “consider it a paycheck.” But the author offers plenty of hope-filled plot twists. For example, in “Veterans of a Foreign War,” a jilted wife finds solace at a VFW fish fry, and—in the soft, sexy final scene—she dances arm-in-arm with the woman who stole her husband.

Tales that present emotionally complex characters with empathy and insight.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59948-823-3

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Mint Hill Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

IT STARTS WITH US

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 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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