Moody, polished, and indelible.

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THE ISLAND

AND OTHER STORIES

Ayer’s (Dead Drunk, 2014, etc.) short story collection centers on Margaret Wollaston and her prolonged struggle with her alcoholic husband, George.

Each story unfolds like a chapter in Margaret’s life, starting with her pre-marriage relationship to George in “Finding the Body.” She meets a widow whose loss leads Margaret to consider leaving George, a recurring theme due to the man’s rampant alcoholism. She is supportive when cops have trouble believing George’s claim of a burglar’s assault (“Navigator’s Wife”) but later recognizes a problem when he drives home drunk (“Walking in a Ditch”). Margaret is a sincere, empathetic character; a palpable love for George makes her hesitancy to separate or divorce plausible even after tumultuous decades as a couple. She likewise affords him opportunity to change time and time again; in “Broken Axle,” she utters her oft-repeated sentiment: “If you stop drinking I’ll come back.” “Buster,” set at a club both Margaret and George frequent, is the book’s sole deviation. It’s an amusing tale in which the titular character finds his new manager gig less than ideal. But even the collection’s longest story, the title novella, with George as protagonist, keeps the spotlight on Margaret. In it, George escapes his loveless marriage by isolating himself on an island. From his exile, however, he can still see his house and remains shackled by insecurities, like suspecting that Margaret is having an affair with his friend MacDougall. In other engrossing stories, Margaret endures a volatility between her father and brother-in-law and another husband, Ike, who may be no better than George. Ayer’s prose coats her tales in emotion and atmosphere. In “Button Cottage,” for example, Margaret’s aunt’s maid, Kate, recalls an early romantic experience: “Blackberry canes arched across the low doorway, sunlight slanted through the dusty window, and the old shed smelled of fertilizer.” The book is furthermore a companion piece to the author’s preceding novel, a murder mystery featuring Margaret and George.

Moody, polished, and indelible.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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