DeLillo's latest novel asks compelling questions, but its answers are a bit shopworn.

ZERO K

A cryogenic facility beyond the edges of civilization provokes a series of meditations on death and life.

“The thinness of contemporary life,” DeLillo writes in his 16th novel. “I can poke my finger through it.” This sentiment reverberates throughout this elusive book. Set in part at a facility in the trackless steppes of a former Soviet republic, it tells the story of a Manhattanite named Jeffrey, his financier father, and his stepmother, Artis, who has traveled thousands of miles to be cryogenically preserved. Artis is dying, but then, DeLillo makes clear, so are all of us, every day, our lives a series of choices, less drama than determination as we move through a world we cannot control. And yet, here at the end of life, there seems a promise: that we can take charge of our destinies once and for all. “Terror and war, everywhere now,” DeLillo suggests, “sweeping the surface of our planet….And what does it all amount to? A grotesque kind of nostalgia.” In removing ourselves from everything, then, even the inevitability of death, we achieve a kind of purity. This, of course, is classic DeLillo, the tension between body and mind. How do we live the more we distance ourselves from our common physicality, the more we lose ourselves in circuits, video clips? From Great Jones Street (1973) to Running Dog (1978) to Underworld (1997), DeLillo has long traced the power of the image both to illuminate and to insulate. In this new novel, however, such tropes lack a certain urgency. Partly, it’s the static nature of the narrative; this is a book, after all, about waiting to die. But even more, it’s that these concepts no longer seem so revelatory in a world as overmediated as ours. No, in such a culture, it is not death that moves us so much as the question of how to live. Or, as DeLillo puts it: “Ordinary moments make the life. This is what she knew to be trustworthy and this is what I learned, eventually, from those years we spent together. No leaps or falls. I inhale the little drizzly details of the past and know who I am.”

DeLillo's latest novel asks compelling questions, but its answers are a bit shopworn.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3539-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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