Romantic, terrifying, brutal, tender, and, in the end, sneakily hopeful. What a writer.

YOUNG MUNGO

Two 15-year-old Glasgow boys, one Protestant and one Catholic, share a love against all odds.

The Sighthill tenement where Shuggie Bain (2020), Stuart's Booker Prize–winning debut, unfurled is glimpsed in his follow-up, set in the 1990s in an adjacent neighborhood. You wouldn't think you'd be eager to return to these harsh, impoverished environs, but again this author creates characters so vivid, dilemmas so heart-rending, and dialogue so brilliant that the whole thing sucks you in like a vacuum cleaner. As the book opens, Mungo's hard-drinking mother, Mo-Maw, is making a rare appearance at the flat where Mungo lives with his 16-year-old sister, Jodie. Jodie has full responsibility for the household, as their older brother, Hamish, a Proddy warlord, lives with the 15-year-old mother of his child and her parents. Mo-Maw's come by only to pack her gentle son off on a manly fishing trip with two disreputable strangers. Though everything about these men is alarming to Mungo, "fifteen years he had lived and breathed in Scotland, and he had never seen a glen, a loch, a forest, or a ruined castle." So at least there's that to look forward to. This ultracreepy weekend plays out over the course of the book, interleaved with the events of the months before. Mungo has met a neighbor boy named James, who keeps racing pigeons in a "doocot"; the boys are kindred spirits and offer each other a tenderness utterly absent from any other part of their lives. But a same-sex relationship across the sectarian divide is so unthinkable that their every interaction is laced with fear. Even before Hamish gets wind of these goings-on, he too has decided to make Mungo a man, forcing him to participate in a West Side Story–type gang battle. As in Shuggie Bain, the yearning for a mother's love is omnipresent, even on the battlefield. "They kept their chests puffed out until they could be safe in their mammies’ arms again; where they could coorie into her side as she watched television and she would ask, 'What is all this, eh, what’s with all these cuddles?' and they would say nothing, desperate to just be boys again, wrapped up safe in her softness."

Romantic, terrifying, brutal, tender, and, in the end, sneakily hopeful. What a writer.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5955-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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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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