Unclassifiable, dizzying, and gorgeous.

PILOT IMPOSTOR

A short, genre-bending book that interrogates themes including art, race, and doubt.

The cover of the third book from novelist Hannaham features a disquieting, arresting image: two airplane passengers bent over in their seats, hands clasped above their heads, as if bracing for impact. Early in the book, the author offers something of an explanation: “I have so many systems to monitor as I work; each aspect of the writing might as well be a knob or a dial on the console of an airplane….It’s as if I am a pilot without knowing anything about how to fly an airplane.” Hannaham’s book—not quite a novel, not quite a short story collection, not quite like anything else—is a clever series of reflections on art, doubt, race, and impostor syndrome. Written as a response to the poetry of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, the book mixes artwork with brief pieces that blur the line between prose and poetry, many focusing on aviation. In one section, a despondent pilot steers his own aircraft into the ocean; he still considers himself a “good person,” reasoning that his passengers’ families will get insurance payouts. Another section showcases Hannaham’s mordant humor: “Do I want to die in a plane crash? I can think of some good reasons to do so. It would bring more attention to this book. It was as if he knew, the reviewers would say, always eager for a prophet.” Hannaham can switch gears quickly from the tragic to the comic, and the ensuing whiplash the reader experiences is as fascinating as it is destabilizing. Each section of the book is beautifully executed in its own way, whether it’s about a pedophile who agonizingly fights his urges or a White police officer who pulls over a driver of color and recites the opening lines of famous poems at him. This book might be impossible to classify, but it’s easy to admire—Hannaham continues to be one of the country’s smartest and most surprising writers of fiction (or whatever this book actually is).

Unclassifiable, dizzying, and gorgeous.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59376-701-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

TO PARADISE

A triptych of stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 explore the fate of humanity, the essential power and sorrow of love, and the unique doom brought upon itself by the United States.

After the extraordinary reception of Yanagihara's Kirkus Prize–winning second novel, A Little Life (2015), her follow-up could not be more eagerly awaited. While it is nothing like either of her previous novels, it's also unlike anything else you've read (though Cloud Atlas, The House of Mirth, Martin and John, and Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy may all cross your mind at various points). More than 700 pages long, the book is composed of three sections, each a distinct narrative, each set in a counterfactual historical iteration of the place we call the United States. The narratives are connected by settings and themes: A house on Washington Square in Greenwich Village is central to each; Hawaii comes up often, most prominently in the second. The same names are used for (very different) characters in each story; almost all are gay and many are married. Even in the Edith Wharton–esque opening story, in which the scion of a wealthy family is caught between an arranged marriage and a reckless affair, both of his possible partners are men. Illness and disability are themes in each, most dramatically in the third, set in a brutally detailed post-pandemic totalitarian dystopia. Here is the single plot connection we could find: In the third part, a character remembers hearing a story with the plot of the first. She mourns the fact that she never did get to hear the end of it: "After all these years I found myself wondering what had happened....I knew it was foolish because they weren't even real people but I thought of them often. I wanted to know what had become of them." You will know just how she feels. But what does it mean that Yanagihara acknowledges this? That is just one of the conundrums sure to provoke years of discussion and theorizing. Another: Given the punch in the gut of utter despair one feels when all the most cherished elements of 19th- and 20th-century lives are unceremoniously swept off the stage when you turn the page to the 21st—why is the book not called To Hell?

Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54793-2

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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