Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.

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THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES

In a collection of luminous stories populated by deeply moving and multifaceted characters, the Black girls and women who sit in traditional church pews discover their own unique ways to worship.

Though each of these nine stories carries a strong female voice, or voices, from a different region, life experience, and time, the church and its profound influence on Black communities is a complex character in itself. In "Eula," two 40-year-old lifelong friends battle each other in defining the parameters of a relationship that had turned sexual years earlier. Tension mounts between the women on New Year's Eve 1999, the last day of the 20th century, when Caroletta, the narrator, wants Eula to admit they could be more than occasional lovers while Eula refuses to let go of her dream of a traditional churchly life with a husband and child. Meanwhile, in "Jael," a woman raising her orphaned great-granddaughter finds the 14-year-old's diary and reads about her erotic obsession with the preacher's wife, struggling with her own judgment that the child she raised might be an ungodly abomination. In "How To Make Love to a Physicist," a middle school teacher embraces therapy, still taboo in many communities of color, to work her way through fears stoked by her rigid mother and give herself over to an unexpected love. The strongest story in a collection of gems is "Peach Cobbler," which finds a teenage girl reckoning with her mother's coldness and yearslong affair with their pastor. No saints exist in these pages, just full-throated, flesh-and-blood women who embrace and redefine love, and their own selves, in powerfully imperfect renditions.

Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949199-73-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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