A clunky, garbled novel about marriage, greed, and deception in Silicon Valley at the height of the tech boom.

BOTTLE GROVE

Consumed by their baser natures, two San Francisco couples struggle to find happiness within the confines of marriage and immense wealth.

Martin Icke, a down-on-his-luck barman, mixes bespoke cocktails at the wedding of Rachel, an anxious socialite about to marry Ben Nickels, a kindly tech underling. Midswizzle, Martin falls for Padgett, a poor-little-rich-girl with an ill-concealed substance abuse problem moonlighting as a waitress. The wedding is disrupted by the trickster wiles of Reynard, a hedonistic spirit that haunts the would-be monogamists of the book, reminding them of their animalistic desires. Affairs, animal experiments, potential kidnappings, and thefts ensue. In particular, Padgett and Martin concoct a scheme to put Padgett in the way of the Vic, a tech scion à la Zuckerberg and Jobs who has invented software that tracks your every move and stores it in "the Trail." If only Padgett can capture the Vic's interest, perhaps she can redistribute the immense wealth of Silicon Valley back into the pockets of a man like Martin. Handler (All the Dirty Parts, 2017, etc.) draws on fables like "Reynard the Fox" to comment on the inhumanity of his characters and tips his hat to noir films like Rebecca to pluck at the threads of the marriage plot. Instead of giving readers new ways to think about marriage or cruelty, however, these literary allusions only muddy the waters in a novel overly interested in solipsistic caricature and jagged, cynical pronouncements. Marriage is both a "big con" and "a civilizing influence." Gentrification is the "prowling," beastly instinct of the tech bro. Characters quip endlessly, repeating the same tiresome steps in Handler's wordplay shuffles. "You're icky, Icke," Padgett tells Martin at some point. Reynard's appearance is "not ghastly, just ghostly." A drunkard watches a bar "shimmer as if in a breezy breeze." While the brutal inhumanities of startup culture are ripe for satire and criticism, this novel fails to deliver even a glancing blow.

A clunky, garbled novel about marriage, greed, and deception in Silicon Valley at the height of the tech boom.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63286-427-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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