A deep immersion in everyday life in Beijing after the Cultural Revolution.

THE WEDDING PARTY

Covering one 12-hour day in December 1982, Liu's magnum opus focuses on all aspects of a working-class wedding, from the earliest preparations to the final farewells, while telling intersecting stories about the inhabitants of the Beijing building where the celebration occurs.

The novel is stuffed with Chinese history, the specifics of life in 1982 (including architecture, food, and clothing), and philosophical musings on time and what it means to be human. Each character in the Dickensian cast undergoes a private drama: They're all fully developed people, with complete histories showing the varied and complex impact of Chinese communism, particularly the Cultural Revolution, on individual fortunes. The wedding takes place in a siheyuan, a building built around a courtyard that in feudal times housed one wealthy extended family but by 1982 is divided into multiple apartments with a variety of residents, from a high-level bureaucrat and a poetry editor to a warehouse guard and a cobbler. Retired grocery store clerk Auntie Xue wants to throw her son, Jiyue, the perfect wedding, hiring young chef Lu Xichun to cook a traditional multicourse feast. The ostensible plot surrounds the wedding’s success or failure, in particular a crisis that arises over the gold-plated watch the Xues have spent their savings to buy as a gift for Jiyue’s bride. But a host of subplots involving flawed yet empathetic characters vie for attention; among them is an unflappable government bureau chief who receives a shocking letter that could destroy his career, a British-educated translator whose uneducated father disapproves of his intellectual fiance, a busybody no one likes despite her good deeds, and an opera singer whose profession and marriage collide. The novel’s heart lies with quiet, passionately competent chef Xichun, whose cooking never falters and who never loses sight of his and others’ humanity.

A deep immersion in everyday life in Beijing after the Cultural Revolution.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-3120-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Amazon Crossing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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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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