An intense but contrived look at a bad young man.

RIDE

A disaffected young man goes on a drug-fueled tear around small-town Ontario in Lafleche’s dark literary novel.

In the early 2000s, angst-ridden, misanthropic Troy Brinkman lives with his parents, refuses to talk to a therapist about his problems, and uses a variety of drugs in large quantities. He hates the way that gossip travels in his unnamed town; for example, after he accidentally stabs his friend in the leg while high on ketamine, everybody seems to know about it: “That’s all anybody ever wants: to live vicariously through other people’s stories,” he narrates. “Make it crazy, make it unreal, make it dangerous and everybody wants to talk about it.” When he learns that Danielle, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, is pregnant again, he agrees to take her to get another abortion. The memories kicked up by this trip lead Troy on a bender of extreme and violent proportions— he robs drug dealers, ruins friendships, and fills his system with whatever chemicals he can. As he self-destructs, he tells himself to just “enjoy the ride,” but that may be because he doesn’t realize the dark places that the ride will take him. Lafleche tells the story in Troy’s own voice—a caustic blend of casual slurs, teenage id, and affected nihilism—and the novel as a whole fits very well within the tradition of transgressive literature. However, it often feels as if the author is purposely pushing the story’s seedier elements past the limits of good taste and verisimilitude. Lafleche offers somewhat-sensational reasons why Troy is the way he is, which readers may not find suitably explanatory; one almost wishes that he hadn’t bothered, as they don’t really say very much about the character’s destructive and often horrifying choices. In the end, readers won’t come away with any kind of greater understanding of youth, addiction, or the human condition.

An intense but contrived look at a bad young man.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Pub House Books

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2020

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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.

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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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