A genre-busting tale rife with ghosts, history, and music, at once lyrical and street-wise.

THE BOOK OF LOST SAINTS

A New Jersey man reckons with his family’s history during the Cuban revolution with the help of a needy and persistent ghost.

Ramón’s day-to-day life is pretty simple: work (he’s a security guard at a hospital), play (he’s a popular party DJ), and romance (he’s in a relationship, if a shaky one, with a co-worker). His Cuban heritage is of only passing interest to him, in part because the family lore is so obscure. Did one aunt really kill herself when Castro took power? Did another really escape? Marisol, one of those aunts, isn’t clear on the details herself; and, being dead, her sole investigative option is to haunt Ramón’s dreams and prompt him to do the legwork. This ingenious setup by fantasy and YA pro Older (Freedom Fire, 2019, etc.) gives the narrative an eerie vibe while still taking its history seriously and wraps a tangible story around the notion that history haunts us. A subplot that puts Ramón under threat from an expat Cuban underworld chief further stresses the point and makes the story more than a genealogy exercise. Ramón’s travels reconnect him with family and ultimately deliver him to Cuba in a fine sequence that clears up some of his and Marisol’s inquiries while introducing him to a country that’s actively oppressive when not merely bureaucratic. (The trip also introduces him to Havana’s furtive but defiant gay subculture.) Older trusts the reader won’t closely scrutinize what Marisol can and can’t do as a ghost, and the plotting is rough-hewn. But its voice is solid: Older's narrative smoothly alternates between Ramon’s macho demeanor and Marisol’s more gentle and pleading voice; from America’s hard-nosed culture to Cuba’s more worn-down one; and from ghost story to literary family saga.

A genre-busting tale rife with ghosts, history, and music, at once lyrical and street-wise.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-18581-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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