A wonder-filled novel about the power of words and stories to bring hope to the most difficult situations.

YONDER

A novel of enslaved people reaching for love and freedom.

Asim's multifaceted oeuvre includes 12 books for children, a collection of poetry, acclaimed works of social criticism, and a short story collection. His majestic second novel is set in the mid-19th century on a plantation called Placid Hall, which is within a hundred miles of free soil. The slaves call themselves the Stolen, and White people, from plantation owners down to children, are referred to as Thieves. Despite living in a society determined to keep the Stolen uneducated and unaware of their surroundings, the enslaved people of Placid Hall hold on to as much of their humanity as possible. They dream of freedom, they fall in love despite knowing they could be separated from their partners or children at any moment, and they believe in the power of words and storytelling. “Our elders taught us that words were mighty enough to change our condition. They whispered seven words into the ears of every Stolen newborn before the child was given a name, seven words carefully chosen for that child alone.” The seven words serve as part prayer and part talisman, but they also give each of the Stolen an identity apart from slavery. Told in quick chapters, many just two or three pages long, that alternate narrators among the Stolen, the novel manages to convey the horrors and vicissitudes of slavery while never compromising each character’s humanity. William is strong and stubborn and hopelessly in love with Margaret. Cato is still grieving the death of his love but begins to see a new future with Pandora. These four, plus Little Zander—who’s always practicing flying away—have to decide if they’re ready to risk their lives for the dream of a better future. Asim demonstrates all a novel can be: soaring and grounded, personal and epic, thrilling and quiet.

A wonder-filled novel about the power of words and stories to bring hope to the most difficult situations.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982163-16-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.

WISH YOU WERE HERE

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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