Leary’s wit complements her serious approach to historical and psychological issues in this thoroughly satisfying novel.


Leary turns her mordant eye to the interplay of feminism, racism, and eugenics at a state institution for women deemed unfit to bear children in 1927.

The fictional Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Child Bearing Age is based on actual asylums where women deemed to have “moral feeblemindedness”—often because they defied social norms or their husbands—were involuntarily placed. Narrator Mary Engle comes to work as a secretary at the supposedly benevolent Nettleton when she’s not quite 18. Having lived in an orphanage until she was 12, Mary feels at home in the institutional setting, and she's also deeply impressed with Nettleton’s superintendent, Dr. Agnes Vogel, a woman who's both a respected doctor—rare at the time—and a suffragette. Then Mary recognizes Lillian Faust, one of the inmates, as a slightly older girl she'd known at the orphanage; Lillian claims she doesn’t belong at Nettleton, saying her abusive husband stuck her there because she'd had a baby with her Black lover. Mary feels conflicted, her instinct to help Lillian escape at odds with her loyalty to Dr. Vogel. Mary is also having a romance with a muckraking Jewish journalist she doesn’t fully trust. Leary’s spot-on descriptions of small moments (learning the Charleston, drinking bootleg liquor) bring the Prohibition era to life. The murky politics and ethics of the time, hinting of parallels with today, are embodied in Dr. Vogel—a feminist committed to expanding women’s rights but also an ardent promoter of eugenics and populist fears (of Blacks, Jews, and Catholics, among others) and a despot who cares little about the Nettleton inmates’ welfare. But the novel’s heart centers on Mary’s moral coming-of-age. Not as naïve as she’d have others believe and possessing a strong survival instinct, Mary clings defensively to her belief in Dr. Vogel despite damning evidence because doing so suits her ambitions. The reluctance with which Mary changes makes her eventual act of courage—against social conventions and despite the personal cost—all the more satisfying.

Leary’s wit complements her serious approach to historical and psychological issues in this thoroughly satisfying novel.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982120-38-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books/Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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