A metatextual inquiry into the roots of human conflict that keeps its thread of tension taut throughout.

YOU FEEL IT JUST BELOW THE RIBS

A recovered manuscript details the establishment of the New Society after the ruinous Great Reckoning almost ends mankind—but does it describe a triumphant return to peace and equity or the desecration of that which makes us most human?

Dr. Miriam Gregory was a visionary psychologist whose research into the link between memory and trauma led to some of the foundational tenants of the New Society, the system of political and social governance that sprang up in the shambles left behind by the Great Reckoning. In 1977, she failed to return home from work and was not heard from again until her body was discovered in Stockholm in 1996.  Hidden under the floorboards of Dr. Gregory’s attic bedsit was a manuscript which, in spite of its incendiary nature, has been made available to a select few well-vetted readers in the name of free speech, the very manuscript the reader now holds in their hands. Dr. Gregory details her early life: the loss of her family, her adoption into a gang of similarly orphaned children, her specious arrest for treason, and her friendship with the ethereal Elsa. It is from Elsa that Dr. Gregory learns to enter a meditative trance state that allows the girls to remove themselves from the harsh environment of the Belgian prison in which they are both incarcerated. After Elsa’s presumed death in a prison riot, Dr. Gregory evolves the technique from meditation into a tool that can actually alter a subject’s relationship to the traumatic memories they carry within them. As her proficiency grows, however, Dr. Gregory’s research is put to uses she never intended. Eventually, her psychological treatments become the foundational tool for enacting the Age Ten Protocols, wherein children are separated from their families and conditioned to forget their emotional ties in an effort to eradicate all traces of the kind of tribal or national loyalties responsible for the Great Reckoning. Horrified by the application of her process, Dr. Gregory sets out to right some of the wrongs she has unwittingly helped create. The book as a whole fits into the universe of the authors' serial podcast Within the Wires, which also takes its form from the idea of found communication. Unsurprisingly, that sense of collaborative creation carries over, both in how Dr. Gregory’s memories intersect and sometimes refute the details of her history and in the technique of liberally footnoting the text with asides from fact-checkers and critics who warn the reader of the danger of taking Dr. Gregory’s word as law. The result is a fascinating layering of fiction, invention, satire, and social critique which explores much more than just the backstory of an alternative history.

A metatextual inquiry into the roots of human conflict that keeps its thread of tension taut throughout.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-306662-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

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TO PARADISE

A triptych of stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 explore the fate of humanity, the essential power and sorrow of love, and the unique doom brought upon itself by the United States.

After the extraordinary reception of Yanagihara's Kirkus Prize–winning second novel, A Little Life (2015), her follow-up could not be more eagerly awaited. While it is nothing like either of her previous novels, it's also unlike anything else you've read (though Cloud Atlas, The House of Mirth, Martin and John, and Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy may all cross your mind at various points). More than 700 pages long, the book is composed of three sections, each a distinct narrative, each set in a counterfactual historical iteration of the place we call the United States. The narratives are connected by settings and themes: A house on Washington Square in Greenwich Village is central to each; Hawaii comes up often, most prominently in the second. The same names are used for (very different) characters in each story; almost all are gay and many are married. Even in the Edith Wharton–esque opening story, in which the scion of a wealthy family is caught between an arranged marriage and a reckless affair, both of his possible partners are men. Illness and disability are themes in each, most dramatically in the third, set in a brutally detailed post-pandemic totalitarian dystopia. Here is the single plot connection we could find: In the third part, a character remembers hearing a story with the plot of the first. She mourns the fact that she never did get to hear the end of it: "After all these years I found myself wondering what had happened....I knew it was foolish because they weren't even real people but I thought of them often. I wanted to know what had become of them." You will know just how she feels. But what does it mean that Yanagihara acknowledges this? That is just one of the conundrums sure to provoke years of discussion and theorizing. Another: Given the punch in the gut of utter despair one feels when all the most cherished elements of 19th- and 20th-century lives are unceremoniously swept off the stage when you turn the page to the 21st—why is the book not called To Hell?

Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54793-2

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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