An often moving story of recovery and rebirth, but one that’s weighed down by excessive detail and dialogue.

Cloud at Dawn

A NOVEL BY TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY SURVIVOR

A survivor of a traumatic brain injury traces the path of a woman’s life before and after an accident in Xiao’s debut novel.

Mary, 39, is idling in the midst of a drawn-out divorce in California’s Silicon Valley. She’s interested in a film career, and she takes it as a sign when a teacher tells her it doesn’t matter what you know in Hollywood but “who you know.” After she’s reminded of a friend who’d dreamed of making a film but never did so, she finds a connection in Los Angeles to help her. After she moves to LA, she’s set up with a man named Mike. The two quickly fall into a romance, but it isn’t long before it sours: the strong-willed, reckless Mike breaks up with her at Disney World but still pursues her, even after stating that he wants to see other people. His actions later cause a life-defining change; he crashes his car while driving them home from the Renaissance Faire, and Mary sustains a traumatic brain injury. Afterward, she’s plagued by double vision, short-term memory loss, and numbness on her left side. Once released from the hospital, Mike takes sexual advantage of her and then kicks her out. Her new life is filled with PTSD-fueled fantasies of vengeance against Mike, dulled only by visions of angels who swoop in to soothe her. It takes her years to recover, but she eventually begins the journey toward making a film about her life. Xiao offers an uplifting and overwhelmingly comprehensive narrative of Mary’s accident and its aftermath, often told in long passages of uninterrupted conversation. Mike and Mary, in particular, read as complex and real. However, the book’s overreliance on dialogue renders other characters flat; a tighter focus on plot would have lended it much-needed tension. As is, the story meanders until the car accident radically shifts the pace halfway through the novel. After that point, though, the author effectively shows how Mary’s resilience and bright spirit allow for an inspiring, battle-born woman to emerge.

An often moving story of recovery and rebirth, but one that’s weighed down by excessive detail and dialogue.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2016

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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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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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