Beautiful, disturbing, and thought-provoking.


A singular collection that probes the most foundational rituals of human society.

“Everyone always says that things like common sense or instinct or morals are carved in stone,” Yamamoto, an affable 39-year-old businessman, muses. “But…actually, they’re always changing….It’s always been that way.” In her debut short story collection, the author of Convenience Store Woman (2016) investigates the validity of our most basic rituals—how humans eat, marry, procreate, and die—and incisively explores the rich, messy stuff left behind once they’re violated. "A First-Rate Material," set in a society that repurposes the body parts of dead people into home goods, features a woman who desperately covets a ring made from human bone despite her fiance’s steadfast disapproval. The unsettling "Poochie" features two elementary school girls who adopt a suit-wearing former businessman as a pet; when they suspect his escape, the girls confront the idea of owning any living thing. "A Magnificent Spread" and "Eating the City" unpack the strangeness surrounding food rituals. The title story explores a society whose severe population shrinkage has turned procreation “into a form of social justice,” spurring the creation of “life ceremonies”—wakelike celebrations that involve partaking of the deceased’s body and finding an “insemination partner” for "copulation." “Recently I’d been getting the feeling that humans had begun to resemble cockroaches in their habits,” the dubious businesswoman Maho muses, given their propensity to “gather to ‘eat’ a deceased one of their number.” Still, upon the unexpected death of a close co-worker, she’s taken aback by the otherworldly beauty of a final encounter with her friend. Murata’s stories are tightly woven and endlessly surprising, with far more going on beneath the surface than is initially evident and surprising moments of unexpected beauty. If there’s a drawback, it’s that sometimes the characters seem less like three-dimensional people than vehicles for ideas, rendering the collection almost too thematically cohesive. Nonetheless, Murata’s writing remains essential and captivating, expertly capturing the fragility of social norms and calling into question what remains of human nature once they’re stripped away.

Beautiful, disturbing, and thought-provoking.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5958-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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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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Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.


The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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