A collection of wonderfully creepy gems in which each story goes its own way, to frightening effect.


Fifteen tales of horror, suspense, and macabre encounters that recount moments when the fantastic finds a crack in our everyday world.

Ford is a prolific writer with a shelf of well-deserved rewards for his novels, but short stories are his sweet spot. Armed with the paranoia of Poe, the psychological terror of Shirley Jackson, and Stephen King’s empathy for everyday people, this latest collection is both subtle and nightmare-inducing, depending on the story. The opener, “The Thousand Eyes,” is a noir-tinged period piece about a mysterious bar, an obsessed painter, and a frightening singer with a “voice of death.” Many of the stories are subdued creature features: “Hibbler’s Minions” is about a flea circus gone awry while “From the Balcony of the Idawolf Arms” features a werewolflike shape-shifter. Finding the minor magic in the everyday world is another thread, but the shifts in style between stories are impressive, from gothic horror in “Inn of the Dreaming Dog” to mythology in “Sisyphus in Elysium” to the long-suppressed grief in the title story. Several of the stories—some of the most experimental and intriguing—find the author narrating his own experiences through fantastical events. In “The Match,” sporadic writing teacher Ford is informed that in order to keep his job, he must fight an angel, as one typically does in academia. Elsewhere, in "Monster Eight," the author’s fictional counterpart has a run-in with the local monster just doing his “monster thing,” and in "The Bookcase Expedition," he witnesses a minor war between fairies and spiders. In "Five-Pointed Spell," the final story and one of the longest, Ford deftly spins a tale that starts with shades of Duel or Mad Max and turns into something that more closely resembles The Blair Witch Project.

A collection of wonderfully creepy gems in which each story goes its own way, to frightening effect.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61873-184-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Small Beer Press

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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


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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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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