This well-crafted and often serendipitous saga recognizes that family cannot be escaped but can be expanded.

NIGHT CAME WITH MANY STARS

Misfortunes and strokes of luck recur within a family over the course of generations, and sometimes, the universe connives to make the connecting thread hard to follow.

Drawing on themes from children's literature, Shakespeare, and T.S. Eliot, Van Booy traces the circular paths through time followed by one family in a series of moody—probably black-and-white—snapshots. As an uneducated young teen in impoverished 1930s rural Kentucky, Carol lives a life of privation and meanness with her widowed father. Escape of a sort comes when she is wagered away to her father’s poker buddy. But harm continues to accrue to Carol in countless brutal ways until her rescue by a trio of “outsiders.” Van Booy’s often poetic yet spare recounting of the events set in motion after Carol’s relinquishment covers the course of three generations in Carol’s family with nods to contemporary trends as well as an acknowledgement of the inevitability of the seasons of a lifetime. Cycles of racism, violence, and misogyny are disrupted by the grace-filled actions of friends, relatives, and strangers all making their ways through the same inhospitable environment. In the words of one of Carol’s unlikely saviors, everyone reaches a crossroads in life, where they can choose to take another way. The same sage observes that what you give in the world will be returned and what you take will be taken; these lessons, shared with Carol on a miserable ride to redemption, inform just about every action and interaction between and among the myriad characters Van Booy sets loose on the slowly revolving stage of rural, karmic destiny.

This well-crafted and often serendipitous saga recognizes that family cannot be escaped but can be expanded.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-56792-703-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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