Readers will appreciate—if not quite be riveted by—this tale of the strength of women in impossible situations.

THE BANDIT QUEENS

Bonds of sisterhood are forged through murders.

When Geeta’s husband, Ramesh, disappeared from their Indian village five years ago, he left her saddled with debt and the lingering rumor that she murdered him. Geeta simultaneously resents her dubious reputation, wields it to scare local children into compliance, and uses it to make up for her loneliness: “She wasn’t respected here, but she was feared, and fear had been very kind to Geeta.'' Then Farah—a member of the microloan club Geeta belongs to along with fellow female entrepreneurs—has a proposal. Would Geeta help her remove her proverbial nose ring by murdering her abusive husband? While hesitant at first, Geeta ultimately agrees. But, of course, this murder does not go smoothly. From there follow a series of betrayals, the uncovering of an underground alcohol trade, and more murder proposals. Some of Shroff’s attempts to insert serious discussions of abuse, misogyny, and class throughout the novel feel awkward, and the story could have used some editing (perhaps one less murder?). Still, if you can lean into the melodramatic slapstick nature of it all—villainous characters who pause midvillainy to explain that their nicknames are works in progress; characters who pause mid–hostage situation to wish each other a Happy New Year—the novel will reward you with occasional witty one-liners, tender moments of deep female friendship, and salient truths: “Because we’re middle-aged housewives. Who’s more invisible than us? We can get away with murder. Literally.”

Readers will appreciate—if not quite be riveted by—this tale of the strength of women in impossible situations.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9780593498958

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A more adorable plea for rationalism and gender equality would be hard to find.

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LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY

Two chemists with major chemistry, a dog with a big vocabulary, and a popular cooking show are among the elements of this unusual compound.

At the dawn of the 1960s, Elizabeth Zott finds herself in an unexpected position. She's the star of a television program called Supper at Six that has taken American housewives by storm, but it's certainly not what the crass station head envisions: “ 'Meaningful?' Phil snapped. 'What are you? Amish? As for nutritious: no. You’re killing the show before it even gets started. Look, Walter, it’s easy. Tight dresses, suggestive movements...then there’s the cocktail she mixes at the end of every show.' ” Elizabeth is a chemist, recently forced to leave the lab where she was doing important research due to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Now she's reduced to explaining things like when to put the steak in the pan. "Be sure and wait until the butter foams. Foam indicates that the butter’s water content has boiled away. This is critical. Because now the steak can cook in lipids rather than absorb H2O.” If ever a woman was capable of running her own life, it's Elizabeth. But because it's the 1950s, then the '60s, men have their sweaty paws all over both her successes and failures. On the plus side, there's Calvin Evans, world-famous chemist, love of her life, and father of her child; also Walter Pine, her friend who works in television; and a journalist who at least tries to do the right thing. At the other pole is a writhing pile of sexists, liars, rapists, dopes, and arrogant assholes. This is the kind of book that has a long-buried secret at a corrupt orphanage with a mysterious benefactor as well as an extremely intelligent dog named Six-Thirty, recently retired from the military. ("Not only could he never seem to sniff out the bomb in time, but he also had to endure the praise heaped upon the smug German shepherds who always did.") Garmus' energetic debut also features an invigorating subplot about rowing.

A more adorable plea for rationalism and gender equality would be hard to find.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54734-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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