A smartly conceived and emotionally stirring poetic tale.

AN ART, A CRAFT, A MYSTERY

A NOVEL IN POETRY

Two women journey to Colonial America and are accused of witchcraft in poet Secord’s debut novel in verse.

“Don’t think these skills were simple, / they were an art, a craft, a mystery, / yet when the men took notice, / they doubted diligence and named it witchery,” reads the closing verse of this book’s title poem. The skills to which the poet refers are those adopted by 17th-century women to nurture their communities—skills that outsiders distorted and called malevolent acts. This novel initially hurls the reader into the heart of London, England, at a time of plague. Lydea Gilbert and her niece, Kate, tend to the sick with little success, and after losing loved ones, they decide to journey across the ocean. In 1636, they board a ship called the Truelove and set sail for   Massachusetts, accepting a period of indentured servitude to pay for their passage. They’re made to work for Hutchinson, a merchant; his wife, Anne, is later put on trial for heresy. Lydea and Kate then travel on to Connecticut, where they go their separate ways, with Lydea going to stay with her cousin, Thomas, and Kate marrying John Harrison, a grower of hops, barley, and tobacco. In 1654, Lydea is accused of being a witch by families she “nursed through pox,” and in 1668, Kate, too, is dragged from her bed and charged with witchcraft. In a final note, the poet reveals that the characters of Lydea and Kate are based on real women, the author’s ancestors, who lived in and were persecuted by Puritan society.

Secord powerfully captures the precariousness of the lives of women healers in the space of a deceptively simple quatrain: “My pockets carry sentimental pieces. / These womb-shaped bags hang below my skirts / hiding needed things, tools for nourishing, / locks of my children’s hair and linen strings.” These brief lines speak volumes about Lydea’s maternal benevolence and the need for her to conceal her practices from those around her. The work presents poems from the separate perspectives of Lydea and Kate, and these first-person accounts shape two psychologically distinct characters. The younger Kate’s vulnerability is palpable on occasion: “I thought that I could live / without her presence, but being with child / again, I wish I could feel her hands.” Secord is also expert at communicating atmosphere, as when, on their arrival in America, Lydea observes: “The air smells / ever green, and trees outnumber men,” a stark contrast to the “many funeral pyres” of the London they left behind. Some readers may be initially skeptical of a novel written entirely in verse, but Secord maintains a strong storyline throughout, and her poetry adds a deeper sense of mysticism. From its opening line, “We kept the small alive from day to day, / kept households warm, kept bread made,” this book is a passionate celebration of historically undervalued daily endeavors of women and a vital reminder of what victims of persecution endured.

A smartly conceived and emotionally stirring poetic tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-60489-303-8

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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