A fictional family tale that flows like a biography narrated with energy and optimism.


In this novel, a rebellious teen conducts soul-searching with the help of her great-grandmother’s diary.

Seventeen-year-old Delia Elliot of Rochester, New York, has ended her junior year of high school with her social life in shambles. After Greg Ashworth, her ex-boyfriend, shared private photographs of her with their classmates, Delia began a run of delinquent behavior. Now she’s been fired from her restaurant job and her mom, Heather, has decided to make her clean the attic of their dilapidated family home. In the midst of this task, Delia finds the diary of her great-grandmother Didi Diamond, dating from 1932. The teen reads about life during the Depression and Didi’s courtship with a young man called Paul. Delia is immediately stirred by the mystery of Paul’s presence since her great-grandfather’s name was Ron. Meanwhile, Heather feels invisible and craves a midlife boost in both her romantic situation and career. It doesn’t help that her ex-husband, Johnston, is happily remarried. She turns to Brian Napier, an occasional fling with whom she’s afraid to get too serious, for extra courage. Seeing progress with the attic, Heather loosens Delia’s house arrest. The teen begins falling for her neighbor Jake Freimuth, who’s nothing like the abusive Greg. As the rift between Delia and Heather starts to heal, with help from Didi’s diary, the pair feel ready to face anything. Barker knows this is the perfect moment to upend her characters’ lives. For the opening two-thirds of the dynamic story, chapters narrated by Delia and Heather alternate, with portions of Didi’s diary included. Events proceed loosely, and those of greatest import are interior to the mother’s and daughter’s lives. Heather decides to take on the challenge of becoming a real estate agent, for example. When Delia learns that her mother had a troubled childhood and spent time in foster homes, she realizes that Heather is “separate and distinct from me” and “lived an entire life before I came along.” When tragedy strikes toward the engaging novel’s end, the author toys with readers’ expectations since real life sometimes doesn’t provide closure. Ultimately, the tender finale will comfort audiences.

A fictional family tale that flows like a biography narrated with energy and optimism.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73535-811-6

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.


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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