Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Texas author Colleen Hoover’s latest, “All Your Perfects,” 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.
(Hoover will speak and sign copies of her book starting at 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information: bookpeople.com.)
An investigation of madness
In “Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir,” Southern California PBS journalist Jean Guerrero explores her relationship with her disturbed, likely schizophrenic father.
Things went south in her father’s life, Guerrero writes in this debut memoir, when a half-sister edged him out of a managerial job in the family meat business. But his newfound addiction to hiding with an early-generation computer wasn’t the first odd thing he’d done; as Guerrero relates, he’d also tapped her mother’s phone in an act of jealousy — but also a fairly sophisticated bit of technological hacking. A mad genius and wild thinker, he got steadily worse: “The rare times Papi emerged from his bedroom, he sat on our living room leather couch, burping, staring at the turned-off television.” Then came the self-medication and the disappearances south of the border in episodes that, as Guerrero recounts them, had an alarming oddness — e.g., he wrapped his headrest in aluminum foil to keep from being zapped by unusual rays, then ran into an army checkpoint that, thankfully, failed to remark on the drugs and open bottles scattered throughout the cab. Investigating her father’s madness and charting his travels, Guerrero became a little unsettled herself: “Life is an accident,” she writes. “Any encounter with meaning is a delusion.” Her path also included some of that self-medication and plenty of that decenteredness. Guerrero relates all of this effectively, though there’s a grim repetitiveness to some of the madness. Readers may take issue with some of her suspensions of disbelief. In the end, she seems to think that it’s entirely possible her father had shamanic powers and that a line of sorcery extended throughout her family in Mexico, which lands us in Carlos Castañeda territory as mediated by a few hits of ecstasy.
With a little suspension of disbelief on his or her own part, even the hardest-nosed reader will find Guerrero’s decidedly centrifugal memoir fascinating.
The Austin American-Statesman has teamed with Kirkus Reviews to bring you select reviews from one of the most trusted and authoritative voices in book discovery. For more reviews from Kirkus, visit kirkusreviews.com.