A superb, captivating work from a promising new literary voice.

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THE REVOLVING HEART

A call from an old friend in need leads a struggling playwright to come to terms with his complex history in Augello’s debut novel.

Donatello “Duck” Marcino is a master pizza chef, an unsuccessful playwright, and a narcoleptic. Amy is a suicidal, alcoholic single mother. The two were inseparable in their teenage years, during which they often babysat for the much younger Sarah Carpenter, whose mother was a less-than-ideal parent. A day at the beach in the 1990s changed their lives immeasurably, though, as Sarah went missing. Duck still has no idea what really happened that day, as he fell asleep on the beach as a result of his narcolepsy. It was generally assumed that Sarah drowned, although Amy claimed that the school drama teacher, Michael Ronan, whom Duck idolized, kidnapped the girl. However, police found no evidence that this was the case. Duck later left New Jersey for California, but a distress call from Amy 20 years later draws him back to his hometown to confront old demons. Duck, accompanied by his remarkably tolerant girlfriend, Kelly, immerses himself in the world he left behind and comes to a new, harrowing understanding of the events surrounding Sarah’s disappearance. Augello’s novel is a beautifully crafted fictional study of the long-term impact of neglect and abuse. Although the initial setup is reminiscent of a crime novel, the story gradually settles into a more reflective narrative about the choices that people make, the bonds they forge, and the obligations they can’t escape, however much they might try. The prose style is first-rate, featuring hints of Douglas Coupland and Philip Roth, cut through with the flavor of Beat Generation narratives. Augello shows a knack for sharp, believable dialogue, and his character construction is impressive. The unsettling malice of male aggression simmers throughout the story, as well, without ever feeling over-the-top.

A superb, captivating work from a promising new literary voice.

Pub Date: April 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68433-477-3

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

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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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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