A Lucky Jim for the millennial woman; blistering, darkly comic, and splendidly written.

THE LIFE OF THE MIND

The protagonist of Smallwood’s debut novel endures the humiliations of life as a contingent faculty member.

As the novel opens, Dorothy is on the toilet. She's in the midst of a miscarriage, and she has chosen to undergo this outside a hospital setting. As weeks go by, she tracks her continued bleeding, harboring this personal secret as she contends with her precarious position as a nontenured humanities Ph.D. She muses about cultural representations of the apocalypse—her current research interest—as she endures her own small apocalypse, and though she thinks and reads and writes ad nauseum about the global version, she suffers her own in silence, examining her bodily processes with mild interest. She even keeps her miscarriage from her two therapists—one of whom she has enlisted to help her work on her relationship with the other. At an academic conference in Las Vegas, she navigates the awkwardness of relationships within academia, whether it be with the adviser she will gladly abase herself to impress, a cohort member she once slept with, or a friendship with a strong undercurrent of competitiveness and jealousy. The novel’s satirical edge—unflinching but never mean—lies in the stark contrast between the lofty ideas that constitute Dorothy’s day-to-day professional existence and the private humiliations of the body, of being human, that she keeps to herself. She approaches every experience and emotion with all the hyperactive wit and self-reflexivity of a professional overthinker. Dorothy’s interiority can be an exhausting place to reside, making the reading experience a bit claustrophobic at times—but that’s precisely the point. Smallwood’s talent for psychological acuity shines through here as she paints an achingly familiar portrait of someone who spends too much time in her own mind. All of this is buoyed by Smallwood’s luminous prose, which heralds the arrival of a real talent.

A Lucky Jim for the millennial woman; blistering, darkly comic, and splendidly written.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-22989-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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