A haunting, intricately layered novel, but the central characters’ ties to Nicaragua ultimately lack a deeper believability.

ONLY THE RIVER

A Jewish family’s escape from Nazi-occupied Austria to find refuge in Nicaragua in 1942 sets a young girl on a winding path of grief, creating a legacy of loss that spans decades and crosses continents.

When 14-year-old Pepa finds refuge in the small village of El Castillo, where her parents, both doctors, have come to battle yellow fever, she falls into a romantic relationship with Guillermo, a local young man. Trauma holds Pepa in its oppressive grip, causing a paralysis in her after she finds out she's pregnant. Just as they secure visas to the United States, Pepa’s parents discover her condition and decide to eliminate the problem themselves. It's when the family arrives in New York City that the book grounds itself, as if waking up from an ephemeral fever dream. This mirrors Pepa’s emotional journey but also transforms Nicaragua into an almost imagined place, a more primitive location framed by an unintentional neocolonial viewpoint. Still mourning her life in El Castillo, Pepa leaves school to work at a Jewish paper, where she meets her future husband, Oskar, a concentration camp survivor. The narrative is told from alternating characters' viewpoints, with the ghost of Pepa and Oskar’s son, William, slipping in and out. William, who went to Nicaragua in 1982 to fight with the Sandinistas despite having the barest familial link to the country, is reported to have died in his first battle. Liliana, Pepa’s daughter, goes back to Nicaragua and El Castillo in present time after the harsh end of her long-term relationship. Guillermo and his own daughter, Federica, also tell their stories as Liliana and William float into their lives, altering them forever.

A haunting, intricately layered novel, but the central characters’ ties to Nicaragua ultimately lack a deeper believability.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-334-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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