Engaging and unsettling in equal measure.

THE WRONG END OF THE TELESCOPE

A Lebanese-born American surgeon reflects on her volunteer stint at a Greek refugee camp and her "cataclysmic family expulsion" for being trans.

It has been decades since the surgeon, a Harvard alumnus in her late 50s who lives with her wife in Chicago and goes by the adopted name Mina Simpson, was in the Middle East. But when a friend working for a Swedish NGO calls for help, she goes. The Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos is fast becoming "an inhumane [mess]," but Mina does her best to treat and comfort Sumaiya, a Syrian woman dying of cancer who has concealed her fate from her family.  As grim as things are there, and for all the daily atrocities that force people to flee their homeland—military bombings, terrorist attacks, bureaucratic cruelties, vile prejudice—Mina's measured account is streaked with irreverence. (Bono, Oprah, and Madonna are tagged "the gods of altruism.") Partly addressed to a blocked Lebanese writer of note who convinces her to chronicle her experience—for him, harsh reality has rendered storytelling "impotent"—Mina's account has a Scheherazade-like sparkle. Her subjects include a beautiful young woman who "refused squalor" by studding the pantry in her tent with sequins and the Lebanese writer's father, whose prized aviary atop his home overlooking Beirut was randomly shelled by the U.S. battleship New Jersey. Mina's own story about her struggle to overcome her mother's monstrous treatment and be seen for who she is is affecting and amusing. Such is the ease and openness of the narrative that it's tempting to read it as autobiographical. Alameddine, a queer San Franciscan who grew up in Kuwait and Lebanon, also was separated from his family. In any case, no one writes fiction that is more naturally an extension of lived life than this master storyteller.

Engaging and unsettling in equal measure.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5780-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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