Atmospheric, intelligent, and well informed: an impressive debut.

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OLGA DIES DREAMING

Warmhearted but tough-minded story of a sister and brother grappling with identity, family, and life goals in gentrifying Brooklyn.

Olga and Prieto Acevedo grew up in Sunset Park, in one of the first Puerto Rican families to move into a then-White working-class neighborhood. Now Olga lives in a Fort Greene high-rise and is a very high-end wedding planner. Prieto is back in the family house with his grandmother after a divorce; he’s a congressman fighting for his district—except when he’s shifting his vote at the behest of the Selby brothers, sinister real estate developers who have compromising photos of very closeted Prieto having sex with a man. The siblings both have bad consciences about having compromised the ideals of their mother, a radical activist for Puerto Rican independence who abandoned the family when Olga was 12 and is now a fugitive. Vivid portraits of various friends and relatives capture the richness of Nuyorican culture, and sharp-eyed observations of the Brooklyn social and political landscape underpin a busy plot. It climaxes with the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, where their mother has become the leader of a revolutionary group called the Pañuelos Negros. An actual boyfriend for the previously commitment-phobic Olga prompts her to reassess a career focused on making lots of money, while an HIV scare goads Prieto to question the need to hide his true self. Supported by Tía Lola and their cousin Mabel, sister and brother also begin to realize how their mother has manipulated them for years with her chastising letters, which are scattered throughout to offer grim examples of fanatical political commitment. Nonetheless, debut novelist Gonzalez’s stinging and knowledgeable commentary about the American sociopolitical order that keeps Black and brown people poor and powerless suggests that radical remedies are called for, even if she gives the personal dramas of her appealing main characters pleasingly hopeful final acts.

Atmospheric, intelligent, and well informed: an impressive debut.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-78617-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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