An essential addition to any Murakami fan’s library.

FIRST PERSON SINGULAR

STORIES

A new collection of stories from the master of the strange, enigmatic twist of plot.

“Your brain is made to think about difficult things.” So concludes the narrator of "Cream," the first story in this gathering, an allusion to the phrase crème de la crème and not the English rock band. In that narrator’s case, the cream rises when you finally understand something you have not comprehended before, while “the rest is boring and worthless.” That realization comes after an old classmate invites him to a piano recital at the vertiginous top of a tall mountain, where he is subjected to both a Christian harangue and a metaphysical puzzle. Music is never far from a Murakami yarn, though always with an unexpected turn: Charlie Parker comes in a dream to tell one young man that death is pretty boring and meaningless, saying, “What’s existed until then suddenly and completely vanishes.” It’s a righteous sentiment, but the young man’s moral flaw was not to consider what existed but instead to write a faux record review for a college magazine about a Parker album that never did, one pairing him with Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. When his editor learns the truth and objects to the chicanery, the young man rationalizes his invention: “I didn’t actually fool him, but merely omitted a detailed explanation.” Closer to Murakami’s heart still are his beloved Fab Four, whose album With the Beatles an ethereal young woman clutches to her chest, giving the narrator a madeleine for the rest of his life. Murakami’s characters are typically flat of affect, protesting their ugliness and ordinariness, and puzzled or frightened by things as they are. But most are also philosophical even about those ordinary things, as is the narrator of that fine Beatles-tinged tale, who ponders why it is that pop songs are important and informative in youth, when our lives are happiest: “Pop songs may, after all, be nothing but pop songs. And perhaps our lives are merely decorative, expendable items, a burst of fleeting color and nothing more.”

An essential addition to any Murakami fan’s library.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31807-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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

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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