Does little to illuminate a familiar conflict.

THE LOST DAUGHTER

In this latest from the pseudonymous Italian Ferrante (Troubling Love, 2006, etc.), a middle-aged woman spends her summer vacation meditating about motherhood.

Leda was born and raised in Naples, but she didn’t feel happy until she escaped at 18 to study in Florence. For her, Florence is a symbol of culture and refinement, while Naples is loud and crude. Now 47, Leda is a university teacher in Florence, long separated from her husband Gianni, another academic, who emigrated to Toronto; her grown daughters, Bianca and Marta, recently joined him, but they stay in close phone contact with their mother. Leda’s summer rental is near the sea in an unspecified town. On the beach she observes an attractive threesome: A young mother (Nina), her small daughter (Elena) and the girl’s doll, with which the pair play. They are part of a larger group of Neapolitans who are sprawled out on the beach. When Elena disappears, Leda finds her and returns her to her grateful mother, but then steals her doll. What’s the reason for this “opaque action”? Does she want to forge a connection to the family, or tap into her own childhood memories? It’s a puzzle; not an interesting one, but there it sits, an indigestible lump. Far more interesting is Leda’s confession, to these total strangers, that she once abandoned her daughters for three years, leaving them with her overworked husband. What triggered her departure was a London academic conference where she was lionized by a professor, who would become her lover, and felt an intoxicating sense of self. Eventually she realized being a mother was her most significant fulfillment. Freedom versus responsibility: This tension underlies Leda’s behavior and ambivalence toward her daughters, which continues to the present. The young mother Nina is Leda’s sounding-board, but Ferrante fails to integrate Leda’s soul-searching with the problems of the fractious Neapolitan family on the beach.

Does little to illuminate a familiar conflict.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-933372-42-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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