A rollicking picaresque at times hindered by stilted dialogue and bulky scenes.

NEW YORK, MY VILLAGE

A Nigerian editor suffers through four months in New York in Akpan's satirical first novel.

Ekong Udousoro, a Nigerian book editor, heads to Manhattan to understudy at a publishing house and edit an anthology of stories by minority writers caught in the crossfire during the Biafran War, a ruthless ethnic conflict that consumed southern Nigeria in the late 1960s and whose legacy still haunts Ekong and other members of his hard-hit tribal minority. After procuring a visa—an infuriating process that provides some of the book’s most affecting scenes—Ekong arrives in New York and quickly falls in love with Times Square, which feels “so global, so democratic, as though all these lights had already boiled and refined every soul down to essential humanity.” Yet he also finds himself living in an illegal sublet in a shabby Hell’s Kitchen apartment that hasn’t been renovated in decades—and he and his neighbors soon find themselves battling not just racial tensions, but an infestation of bedbugs. Meanwhile, Ekong finds himself the only person at his publishing house who isn't White, something that is uncomfortable for him and, tellingly, for his supposedly anti-racist co-workers. (There’s an amazing moment during an editorial meeting when Jack, a high-powered villain on the publicity team, says that Ekong isn’t “conversant” enough about American culture to edit American stories; Ekong replies that Jack is “totally right,” then adds, “But you guys have been editing African fiction, no?”) America and Nigeria serve as mirrors for each other here: Both are places of incredible diversity (Nigeria has at least 250 ethnic groups), yet both are marred by the fact that old conflicts continue to circumscribe nearly every interracial (or intertribal) interaction. Yet, as important as Akpan’s investigations into this subject are, his book struggles at the line and scene levels. For instance, this interaction between Ekong and his neighbor is as defined by its stilted dialogue as it is by its piercing insight into the sometimes-fraught relationship between Black Americans and Black Africans: “ ‘Look, Ekong, let’s forget our disagreement for a moment, so we can really talk,’ he said, clearing his throat. ‘You’re very gracious...thanks,’ I said, straightening up. ‘Keith, talking is good, talking is really good, bro.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘No, I’m sorry for my outburst and attack! I didn’t have to say that about slaves and your ancestors—our ancestors….’ ‘I guess we can’t resolve four-hundred-year-old bad blood by screaming at each other on the streets.’ ‘I know.’ ‘Bro, how was your day?’ ‘So-so.’ ‘Mine, too.’ ”

A rollicking picaresque at times hindered by stilted dialogue and bulky scenes.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-393-88142-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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

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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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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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