A beautifully constructed, acutely felt, morally honest collection.

TOTAL

Seven stories focus on the many guises of obsessive (though not particularly sexual or romantic) love, and Miller's tone is disarmingly matter-of-fact throughout.

The protagonists are mostly women, privileged, if not necessarily wealthy, members of the liberal elite. Their passion often centers around children. The opener, “Mrs. Covet,” concerns Daphne, an overwhelmed mother of three, one a newborn, who feels ambivalent about her new nanny; threatened by the nanny’s competence, Daphne also luxuriates in her novel freedom from parental responsibility until a crisis awakens her fierce maternal protectiveness. The mother in “Vapors” is taking her 2-year-old for a walk when she runs into an old lover. Memories of various intensely troubled romantic relationships come flooding back, but none can ultimately compare to her emotional connection to her child. The title story hinges on a science-fiction conceit—social networking technology available only to the well-to-do goes terribly wrong, resulting in the birth of morbidly fragile children who spend their brief lives expensively institutionalized—but it becomes an intense exploration of family ties: When a teenager decides to rescue her younger sister from the institution where their well-meaning, quietly distraught parents have placed her, her plans go awry, but the telling is more sweet than bitter. In “I Want You To Know,” a case of obsessive motherly love gone fatally wrong acts as a plot pivot, a story within the story about a woman coming to grips with the new rural life she’s committed to with her husband. The protagonist in “Receipts” chooses career over family, knowing and accepting the cost. The nature of storytelling is the theme in “She Came to Me,” the only story with a male protagonist, one whose need to feed his creativity in a comically dark erotic adventure equals his avowed commitment to his family. Finally, “The Chekhovians” is itself a riff on Chekhov: There's family tragedy, comic class conflict, and an unexpected offer of money.

A beautifully constructed, acutely felt, morally honest collection.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-3742-9911-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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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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Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW

The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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