Dazzling wordplay and subtle allusion mark this most welcome return to fiction.


A richly satirical novel, his first since 1973, by the Nigerian Nobel Prize winner.

“The timing could not have been more thoughtfully ordained. Indeed—and he leant over to whisper confidentially to the surgeon during one of their meals together….‘It was I who set fire to Hilltop Mansion, just to get you down in Badagry.’ ” There’s a lot going on in Soyinka’s shaggy dog yarn, its plot dense enough to rival anything by Günter Grass. The speaker here is an engineer who has fallen afoul of the nation’s prime minister, a propagandist wedded to the ironic slogan of Soyinka’s title. His lifelong friend, a surgeon who specializes in amputations, now has rivals in child soldiers and Boko Haram terrorists, given to lopping off the limbs of presumed infidels out in the countryside. They’re not the only bad actors: As Soyinka writes, the police and the Nigerian army are not shy themselves about relieving their victims of body parts, and then there are the usual grisly accidents and freelance acts of violence. Dr. Kighare Menka sighs, “I am only a surgeon. My specialization is to cut people up, after others have recommended that course of action.” His engineer friend, Duyole Pitan-Payne, has much bigger ambitions for the good doctor, but alas, things go awry, as they always do. Soyinka’s sprawling tale abounds in sly references to current events in Nigeria, and his targets are many, not least of them politicians and self-styled holy men with bigger ambitions still (says one of the latter, “The trouble with youis diffidence, that illegitimate child of memory. Go for chutzpah!”). Everyone you’ll encounter in these pages, including someone who just might be the devil himself, has ardent hopes and big dreams and no fear of stepping on others, such as one aide who wonders “why widows, widowers, and orphans did not simply lick their wounds and adopt appeasing attitudes towards their violators for the privilege of staying alive.”

Dazzling wordplay and subtle allusion mark this most welcome return to fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-59-332016-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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

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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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Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.


A young woman finds herself at a Covid-induced crossroads in Picoult’s latest ultratopical novel.

Sotheby’s associate Diana O'Toole, age 29, and her surgical resident boyfriend, Finn, are planning a trip to the Galapagos in March 2020. But as New York City shuts down, Finn is called to do battle against Covid-19 in his hospital’s ICU and ER, while Diana, at his urging, travels to the archipelago alone. She arrives on Isabela Island just as quarantine descends and elects to stay, though her luggage was lost, her hotel is shuttered, and her Spanish is “limited.” What follows is the meticulously researched depiction Picoult readers have come to expect, of the flora and fauna of this island and both its paradisiacal and dangerous aspects. Beautiful lagoons hide riptides, spectacular volcanic vistas conceal deep pits—and penguins bite! A hotel employee known only as Abuela gives Diana shelter at her home. Luckily, Abuela’s grandson Gabriel, a former tour guide, speaks flawless English, as does his troubled daughter, Beatriz, 14, who was attending school off-island when the pandemic forced her back home. Beatriz and Diana bond over their distant and withholding mothers: Diana’s is a world-famous photographer now consigned to a memory care facility with early-onset Alzheimer’s, while Beatriz’s ran off with a somewhat less famous photographer. Despite patchy cellphone signals and Wi-Fi, emails from Finn break through, describing, also in Picoult’s spare-no-detail starkness, the horrors of his long shifts as the virus wreaks its variegated havoc and the cases and death toll mount. Diana is venturing into romantically and literally treacherous waters when Picoult yanks this novel off life-support by resorting to a flagrantly hackneyed plot device. Somehow, though, it works, thanks again to that penchant for grounding every fictional scenario in thoroughly documented fact. Throughout, we are treated to pithy if rather self-evident thematic underscoring, e.g. “You can’t plan your life….Because then you have a plan. Not a life.”

Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984818-41-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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