Each story rings with wry, modern truth even as the characters are frustrated at every turn.

COOL FOR AMERICA

A collection of stories that document suburban angst and the burdens of being too young and too smart for your own good.

Martin has emerged as a leading chronicler of millennial ennui in contemporary America; his new collection includes two stories featuring Leslie, a character from his acclaimed debut novel, Early Work (2018). The 11 stories all feature young people struggling to find authentic connections to friends, family, work, and culture in a modern America not particularly interested in them or their opinions. The settings range across the United States, from Missoula to New York to suburban landscapes that could be just about anywhere. None of the protagonists are likable in a traditional sense, but they’re all trying to do their best in a time that feels like the twilight of an empire. The characters suffer from various anxieties, addictions, and maladies, but primary among the things that ail them is a cruel awareness that they’re not actually suffering. When thinking about her anxiety over the state of the world and politics, Cassie realizes that “the anxiety was tolerable. She could, to her relief and regret, live with it.” The protagonists of these stories know their suburban angst is, in reality, quite shallow, which just makes them feel worse. Each character suffers from the knowledge that no matter what they’re doing there’s something better and more satisfying out there somewhere. “The big problem that Leslie had, as far as she could tell, was that she was still, at twenty-seven, a person without well-established and verifiable thoughts or opinions about things.” She handles this feeling by drinking with friends and stumbling into relationships that leave all involved parties exhausted and puzzled. Martin’s writing, however, is as light and lively as his characters are frozen and hesitant. Frequently hilarious, Martin’s stories are insightful, and the characters are both truthful and authentic.

Each story rings with wry, modern truth even as the characters are frustrated at every turn.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-10816-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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