An engaging, disturbing tale of love, loss, and human frailties set against cross-cultural conflicts.

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MANGO RAINS

In this novel, a young American woman joins the Foreign Service and is sent to Cambodia during Southeast Asia’s turbulent 1960s.

Julia Galbraith, nearly 23, arrives in Phnom Penh in the Mango Rain season (pre-monsoon period) of 1963. It is her first overseas posting. Prince Sihanouk is still in power, playing a delicate balancing act between friendships with America and China, which are involved in the early stages of their battle in war-torn Vietnam. In Cambodia, the Khmer Serei, an anti-Sihanouk rebel group hiding in Thailand, is becoming more threatening. The political machinations in Southeast Asia during this time create an intriguing and increasingly dark backdrop. During Julia’s tenure, a military coup ousts the United States–supported Diem government in Vietnam; President John F. Kennedy is assassinated; and the American position in Cambodia becomes tenuous. But the real drama in the novel rests with the romantic liaisons, ambitions, tragedies, and disappointments of various members of the diplomatic corps and the journalists covering them, beginning with Julia, through whom readers meet the rest of the characters. Her ill-fated love affair with the handsome Charles Hourani, who is attached to the Moroccan Embassy, is just one of the narrative’s challenging relationships that change lives and often end sadly as the story eventually progresses through succeeding decades. Oman, who has some experience in the Foreign Service, offers a captivating insider glimpse of America’s diplomatic mission during a tumultuous time. Vivid images of Cambodia—the colors, aromas, flavors, and street scenes—bring readers directly into the time and place: “Fortunetellers squat on the pavement, and old men hold cages of songbirds. Dentists set up rudimentary shops on the sidewalks, their primitive tools laid out on less-than-pristine towels.” The second half of the richly descriptive and poignant book—with the exception of its first chapter, which concludes Julia’s time in Southeast Asia—consists of an assortment of catch-up vignettes that fill in the ultimate fates of most of the supporting characters. It makes for a rather melancholy finale.

An engaging, disturbing tale of love, loss, and human frailties set against cross-cultural conflicts.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73323-322-4

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Galaxy Galloper Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2020

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

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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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