Two stories juxtaposing the lives of a mother and daughter across two cultures; the former leaves a bigger impression.

THE MISMATCH

A recent college graduate struggles to reconcile her Iranian Muslim heritage and immigrant family dynamics with her British life and boyfriend.

Soraya Nazari doesn’t know what she wants. Her family wants her to be a good Muslim girl, but her father and siblings aren’t good models, her scientist mother complains about her husband but wants her daughters to fit into old molds, and Soraya herself is confused about how to inhabit her faith. When Magnus Evans, a popular rugby player and fellow graduate from her university cohort, shows an interest in her, she convinces herself that seeing him is just practice for getting over her hang-ups. But as Soraya and Magnus draw closer, another narrative unfolds in flashbacks—the story of how Soraya’s parents, Neda and Hossein, fell in love in Iran in the 1970s and how migrating to England unraveled their marriage. While the contemporary story is a familiar new-adult drama of young people starting their professional paths in a big city, making romantic gaffes, and weaning themselves away from family neuroses, Soraya’s relationships to Islam and immigrant culture add a layer to the standard arc, calling to mind works like Uzma Jalaluddin’s Ayesha At Last. Simultaneously, the interspersed chapters of how Neda and Hossein's love fractured as migration and racism had their ways with them, followed by Hossein's descent into substance abuse and the mysterious absence of their oldest daughter, read more like women’s fiction, with its female protagonist’s troubled personal life and her journey to overcoming patriarchy. Its effect on Soraya, namely her emotional skittishness and existential angst, is explained convincingly—particularly through an explosive incident of domestic violence—and it's clear that her story is about discovering herself before she commits to a man. The novel also dislodges Whiteness from its typical central position in both genres, with Soraya’s friends being people of color with distinctive personalities.

Two stories juxtaposing the lives of a mother and daughter across two cultures; the former leaves a bigger impression.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-35717-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dell

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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