Powerful but in need of a polish.

THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR

In Nazi-occupied Kraków, a friendship between two young women, one Jewish and one Polish, alters the destinies of both.

The present-day prologue introduces an unidentified 70-something woman who is visiting Poland, trying to work up the nerve to make contact with a 90-ish Kraków resident. The novel proper alternates the first-person narratives of Sadie Gault and Ella Stepanek, both 19. A mass deportation of Kraków’s Jews in 1943 drives Sadie’s father to take desperate measures to avoid the camps. With the help of Pawel, a Polish sewer worker, Sadie and her parents escape into Kraków’s sewer tunnels, but Sadie's father drowns along the way. To avoid capture, Sadie and her mother—who's pregnant—must hide in a small chamber inside the sewer system along with the Rosenbergs, a more devout family. Meanwhile, Ella’s father died defending Poland, and her stepmother, Ana, is now welcoming German officers to Ella’s family home (where she lives at Ana’s sufferance). Then one day, walking through a market, Ella spots Sadie through a grate, and they make eye contact. She returns the next day, and gradually the acquaintance between the young women warms into friendship. Sewer living gets even more challenging when Pawel, sole source of food and supplies, is arrested. Ella, aided by her resistance fighter boyfriend, smuggles food to the refugees. Sadie and young Saul Rosenberg overcome their religious differences and fall in love. After Sadie’s mother gives birth, the infant’s wails force the fugitives to make a terrible choice. All these well-drawn characters have too few options, which they debate endlessly and repetitiously. The description of how the sewer dwellers exist for months in a small, bare, filthy space is sketchy. The book's timeline can feel vague—the main action is happening in 1943, but the historical circumstances suggest 1944. There are continuity glitches. At the beginning of the book, Ella notes that her father left no will, but much later, the will turns up with no comment. Contemporary parlance creeps in: “we can do this,” “a few months tops.” Still, there are gripping scenes, particularly toward the end, and a poignant epilogue.

Powerful but in need of a polish.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-778-38938-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Park Row Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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