An enthralling dystopian drama that makes complex points about parenting with depth and feeling.

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THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS

Current ideas about parenting are held up to scrutiny in a dark satire that's also a dramatic women-in-prison story.

"There are seventeen women tonight, including Frida. In one lit corner, they sit on cold metal folding chairs, arranged in a circle....They could be stars of a slasher film or the world's saddest hip-hop video." But in fact, they are mothers who have been separated from their children and incarcerated for one year at a former college campus outside Philadelphia. Recalling The Handmaids' Tale, Orange Is the New Black, and Clockwork Orange, Chan's debut features Frida, a 39-year-old Chinese American mom with a part-time job in academia and an 18-month-old named Harriet. Left for a younger woman by her husband, Gust, soon after their daughter was born, Frida is struggling with exhaustion and loneliness when she has her "very bad day"—she leaves Harriet alone in the house while she goes out to get coffee and pick up papers at work. Harriet is taken into custody, then sent to live with Gust and his girlfriend while Frida is surveilled in her home and on supervised visits to determine her fitness to parent. When she fails, she is remanded to reform school with other mothers who have looked away at the wrong time, who have given in to anger or selfishness, who must now repent and relearn. "I am a narcissist. I am a danger to my child," they are trained to recite, along with "I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good." They are paired with lifelike robot dolls on whom they practice "Fundamentals of Care and Nurture" and study "Dangers Inside and Outside the Home." They are taught to speak "motherese" and to disregard their own needs and desires; they are tested, monitored, scanned, and evaluated. Friendships and romances bloom; desperation spreads; trouble brews. If this doesn't become a miniseries, nothing will.

An enthralling dystopian drama that makes complex points about parenting with depth and feeling.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982156-12-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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