Incandescent writing illuminates one woman’s life in flames.

I LOVE YOU BUT I'VE CHOSEN DARKNESS

Reckless and defiantly intelligent, Watkins detonates the ties that bind.

An almost hallucinatory craft propels Watkins' fiction, starting with her ear for titles. Midbook, the reader learns that the narrator’s (doomed) teenage beau tattooed I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness across his collarbones, “with a period, as in end of discussion.” The narrator, named Claire Vaye Watkins, starts off in a garden of “mostly rock and dirt,” addressing four naked dolls. Awash in postpartum depression, she has bolted the Midwest for Nevada, leaving an infant daughter and a husband in her wake. She might be directing the title to her daughter, but it works equally well as a signoff from her own handsome, notorious father, Paul Watkins, “Charles Manson’s number one procurer of young girls.” Or from her mother, Martha, “an artist, a naturalist, a writer” who died alone, addicted to OxyContin. Watkins’ reckoning with her mother is breathtaking. “I went from being raised by a pack of coyotes,” she writes, “to a fellowship at Princeton where I sat next to John McPhee at a dinner and we talked about rocks and he wasn’t at all afraid of me.” Dark humor marbles these pages, and whether a reader finds it bracing or bratty may be a matter of temperament, or generation. Watkins breaks the rule of her open marriage by falling in love and, thinking of her husband, tells herself, “Do not say I just have to get this out of my system because I do not want it out.” Along this jagged way, Watkins spins a remarkable set piece as she gives a literary reading at a Reno high school. Mostly, she sifts the remnants of her desert family of origin, making it impossible to look away. Less successful are long excerpts of Martha’s teenage letters to a cousin, a wanly parallel coming-of-age. Still, when Watkins thanks both dead parents in her acknowledgements, the sincerity is a measure of rare storytelling capable of lifting them all from the wreckage.

Incandescent writing illuminates one woman’s life in flames.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-33021-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 37

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more