An unflinching consideration of the long aftereffects of an affair cut short.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

BOLLA

Two men fall for each other in the wrong place at the wrong time in this bleak tale of love and war.

The third novel by the Kosovo-born Finnish novelist Statovci is structured around the alternating narratives of Arsim, a closeted gay man and aspiring Albanian writer, and Miloš, a medical student. Arsim is in emotional retreat twice over, entering a loveless marriage to hide his homosexuality and treading carefully in Pristina, Kosovo, where he’s an “Albanian in a world run by Serbs.” His furtive relationship with Miloš is exhilarating but short-lived: It’s 1995, and the Bosnian War soon sends Miloš to the front and Arsim to exile in an unnamed city. As the story follows the two into the 21st century, each has suffered badly, and an attempt at reconnection only reveals the depth of the damage. Miloš’ chapters are briefer and more impressionistic, suffused with horrific memories of war’s carnage. (“I have held a friend’s heart in the palm of my hand.”) Arsim’s chapters are more straightforward, but though his PTSD is less acute, he’s still suffused with fear, repression, and anger. He is routinely abusive toward his wife, Ajshe, and their children and makes a series of poor decisions that further sabotage his well-being. Statovci lets little sunlight into the narrative, the better to emphasize just how powerful homophobia and self-loathing can be, and Arsim is deeply unlikable; “may the Devil eat you,” Ajshe spits at him, and he deserves that world-class insult. But he comes undone in engrossing and complicated ways. Indeed, he’s so well drawn that Miloš’ portion of the narrative, however graceful, feels disproportionately thin. From either perspective, though, the mood is profoundly sorrowful.

An unflinching consideration of the long aftereffects of an affair cut short.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4920-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 67

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 26

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more