A domestic fable about grief and redemption likely to leave readers emotionally threadbare.


The life of a young albino boy in suburban New Jersey is permanently marked by two tragedies, neither of his making.

Playwright and novelist Lodato’s debut novel (Mathilda Savitch, 2009) was a sublime coming-of-age story about a young girl. In his ambitious but less focused follow-up, the author switches genders to focus on the life-changing events that shape an 8-year-old boy. It’s a dark mirror of Lodato’s debut, filled with menace and grief that takes no less than seven weighty passages to play out. The child is Edgar Allan Fini, who has “pale skin, white hair, tired eyes a sea-glass shade of green.” To his mother, Lucy, an alcoholic hair stylist, he's “her funny little albino fruitcake.” But as Lodato starts building out Lucy and Edgar’s world with meticulous detail, he’s also lacing the tale with ill intent. First there is the matter of Frank Fini, Edgar’s manic-depressive father, who committed suicide by plunging his car off a cliff, nearly taking Lucy with him. There's Edgar’s grandmother Florence, who wields such influence over the boy that she continues to muse over his fate even after her death. We have the butcher with whom Lucy is sleeping, who accidentally severs Edgar’s finger. Lucy herself is still shattered by Frank’s death, to the degree that she tells her lover “please don’t be happy” when she finds herself pregnant. It’s a dark tale told in stolen moments and silent reflections, and it gets darker as time passes. The final half of the book depicts the strange relationship between Edgar and a man named Conrad who committed a terrible trespass against his own son. These characters hurtle toward a climax that begins to defy plausibility—the author ties things up with a jarring change in voice at the end—but readers who make it that far are apt to be enraptured already.

A domestic fable about grief and redemption likely to leave readers emotionally threadbare.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-09698-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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


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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