A humane, memorable work of literature.

HOMELAND

Complex tale of the long-lingering effects of political murder in a Basque town.

“Before what happened with Txato,” writes San Sebastián native Aramburu, “Bittori had been a believer.” What happened with Txato is revealed, bit by bit, over the course of 125 short chapters that focus on the many players involved, but the basic facts emerge early on: A businessman, Txato, has been murdered by a member of the Basque separatist group ETA, who are criminals or freedom fighters depending on one’s point of view. Bittori, Txato’s widow, knows what side she falls on; she has to be dissuaded from including a denunciation of the movement on Txato’s tombstone, for fear that there will be further trouble. “They already killed him once,“ Bittori replies. “I don’t think they’ll kill him again.” But death and sorrow ensue all the same: Bittori loses both her faith and the friendship of her childhood companion, Miren, even as her own children slip away, unable to face the tragedy; her daughter, Nerea, does not even attend the funeral, perhaps for fear of being targeted herself, while Bittori leaves her village so that she “wouldn’t have to go on suffering the menacing stares of the neighbors—friendly for so many years and then, suddenly, just the opposite.” For her part, Miren undergoes trials of her own: One of her sons has been imprisoned as an ETA terrorist, while her own daughter, Arantxa, has been paralyzed by a stroke. For all their shared tribulations, Miren and Bittori, once the closest of friends, now stand on opposite sides of a vast gulf, and if life goes on, it goes on without them; the novel’s closing words make clear that their wounds will never be healed. Aramburu recounts the lives of ordinary people shattered by events that are ongoing in Spain today even years after ETA has suspended its armed campaign; the reader needs no background in that tangled history to understand that basic, terrible truth.

A humane, memorable work of literature.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4712-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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