Hot Springs Drive

Grove Atlantic. Nov. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9780802161451. $29. F
From her first story collection to her most recent novel, Eat Only When You’re Hungry, Hunter has always written with a sort of ruthless courage that takes us to the bitter edge. And she’s done it again in her latest, featuring best friends Theresa and Jackie, who met while giving birth and now live next door to each other, their families deeply entwined, with Jayson, one of Jackie’s four rowdy sons, and Theresa’s daughter Cece attracted to each other. And then Theresa is discovered gruesomely bludgeoned to death, the culprit caught immediately, the deed enacted only a day after the raucous affair between Jackie and Theresa’s husband was discovered. What results is a devastating portrait of two damaged families and one monstrous woman you won’t soon forget. Jackie had lost herself in marriage and motherhood and had gained considerable weight, then honed herself razor-sharp, so that one son said, “She made herself into this new person, a thin stranger”—one often indifferent to the needs of others. Questions bubble up throughout. Can we change? What’s the cost? What are our responsibilities to ourselves and to others? What is the nature of desire?
VERDICT And by the way, who was the killer? Hunter keeps readers guessing in a book that’s both thriller-taut and an immersive study of human behavior.
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