Like the man she shackles to a chair in the prologue, once this narrator has you, she won't let go. A remarkable debut.

VLADIMIR

When her husband is accused of sexual misconduct on campus, an English professor is overcome by scandalous drives of her own.

The unnamed narrator of Jonas' debut has this initial reaction to five female students coming forward to accuse her husband, John, who's the chair of the English department, of inappropriate conduct: "I am depressed that they feel so guilty about their encounters with my husband that they have decided he was taking advantage of them. I want to throw them all a Slut Walk and let them know that when they’re sad, it's probably not because of the sex they had, and more because they spend too much time on the internet, wondering what people think of them." She and John have had an open marriage for decades, but the sense of exposure she feels after the accusations become public wounds her in unexpected ways. She finds herself sexually obsessed with a new hire named Vladimir Vladinski, a hunky young novelist who has arrived in town with a memoirist wife and daughter. At every point, the coolness of her intellect and the clarity of her self-awareness are at war with her vanity and shame about aging. For example, her reaction to the assiduous domestic and bodily preparations she makes to receive Vlad and family for a pool party: "Enraged at my vapidity, I forced myself to sit down and read several articles in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books before I fixed my nighttime drink." Several interesting subplots support the main one as it ticks along, picks up speed, and finally hurtles toward its explosive climax: the narrator's relationship with her grown daughter, a lesbian lawyer; the changing chemistry between her and her female students; the backstory on Vlad and his wife. A conversation at the pool party about why young writers are so drawn to memoir and autofiction, a pronouncement on the best timing for a forbidden cigarette, and advice about cooking tomato sauce are typical of the astuteness of this book on matters literary, psychological, and culinary.

Like the man she shackles to a chair in the prologue, once this narrator has you, she won't let go. A remarkable debut.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982187-63-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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