Overwritten, lugubrious and self-consciously oblique.


Kimmel (The Used World, 2007, etc.) tells the story of an unbalanced Indiana college girl who may have been abused in childhood.

The novel’s first sentence, “I never had sex with my father but I would have, if he had agreed,” sets the tone. Trace Pennington, who goes to college under the name Ianthe Covington, drops a seminar on “the wounded woman.” It’s a good label for the burgeoning genre of novels like Kimmel’s about brilliant, beautiful, abused females. Trace is certainly the classic “wounded woman” heroine: She’s poor; she’s goth lovely with striking eyes; she keeps a dream journal; she lives in an abandoned farmhouse; and she’s first in her class. Oh, and she may be insane. Trace shares her sordid past in bits and pieces along with large helpings of psychological theorizing heavy on Freud, Jung and James Hillman but also ranging from Greek mythology to Carl Sagan. Occasionally Trace sneaks back to her hometown to visit her friend Candy, who lives in a broken-down trailer with her kids. Candy confides she’s been visited by aliens—the same way Trace may have been as a child; one night she was found wandering outside in the woods by her house. Trace sometimes explains her wandering as the aftermath of an encounter with aliens. She also claims to have been tortured by members of her mother’s church as part of an exorcism ceremony. The youngest of three children, Trace clearly considers her mother cruel and abusive, her father a broken saint. In her final year in college, Trace becomes passionately involved with Jacob, a psychology professor who marries her and molds her into a proper faculty wife. Although Trace isn’t sure whether Jacob, whose first wife disappeared, is a Pygmalion or a Bluebeard in her life, readers will suspect that he is just a pretentious jerk. After a stay in the hospital Trace begins to put the jigsaw pieces of her past into some kind of order. Or not.

Overwritten, lugubrious and self-consciously oblique.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7284-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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


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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