A postmodern masterwork that outdoes Pynchon in eccentricity—and electricity, with all its dazzling prose.

THE FIVE BOOKS OF (ROBERT) MOSES

Three decades in the making, Nersesian’s pentalogy—one book for each New York borough—imagines a very strange alternative past.

Roaming from the 1930s to the 1980s, Nersesian’s five books imagine a New York vacated after a bombing campaign during the 1969 Days of Rage and relocated to the Nevada desert. As the sprawling story opens, Ulysses Sarkisian (who shares the pop star Cher’s family name) is roaming, biblically, out in the sand. Uli, as he’s called, is amnesiac, knowing only that he has to get across town to fulfill a mission. Eventually he connects with his sister, who’s in the thick of a gang war between the “Crappers” and the “Piggers,” a contest that takes Uli all across a Rescue City in which, like the real New York of yore, nothing works well: “When the sewer got blocked and Staten Island flooded, the homes became uninhabitable, even after it drained,” a Crapper leader tells him, dodging Uli’s conspiracy-theory question about why the place was built even before the bombing campaign began. Those terror attacks are the product of another gang war of sorts, the very real fraternal struggle between Robert and Paul Moses, each of whom does his bit to destroy the old city. The story plunges ever deeper into the surreal as Uli morphs into Paul and vice versa even as Paul’s daughter, Beatrice, runs for office disguised as would-be Andy Warhol assassin Valerie Solanas (“I think we want to downplay that,” Bea says of the attempt). Allen Ginsberg, Jane Jacobs, Mark Rudd, Ronald Reagan, Timothy Leary, and other real-life figures play parts in Nersesian’s decidedly centrifugal story, which, though challenging, follows its own rigorous logic across a landscape of mirages and hallucinations. Or, as Uli replies when Bea asks him whether he’s figured out why he’s there, “No, not really. But I don’t know, I saw a lot of weird things.”

A postmodern masterwork that outdoes Pynchon in eccentricity—and electricity, with all its dazzling prose.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61775-499-9

Page Count: 1504

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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: 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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