A wondrous book of tales of lost worlds.

SUTZKEVER

ESSENTIAL PROSE

The best of Yiddish poet Sutzkever’s short stories, made available in English for the first time.

Avrom Sutzkever (1913-2010) is a giant of Yiddish poetry. He was an accomplished author who survived the Vilna ghetto and service in the Lithuanian resistance during World War II to become a major figure in Israel’s revival of Yiddish literature. He increasingly turned to prose in his later years as a means of grappling with his grief over the Holocaust. In the first story here, “Green Aquarium,” the narrator finds himself perched atop the titular structure, as all the dead people he’s ever known swim beneath him. In “The Gopherwood Box,” a man searching for a treasure in a war-ravaged city lowers himself into a well even though he can no longer remember where he first heard of the loot. The earlier stories are shorter and more enigmatic while later ones offer narratives that are more developed. “The Twin,” for example, recounts the tale of a man meeting a woman in Jaffa who tells him a terrible tale of defiance in one of the German death camps. A current of magical realism runs throughout the book as Sutzkever reaches for images appropriate for disruptive times. His skills as a poet are apparent in nearly every sentence, as translated by Berger, who gets across their richness and precision: “The fiery tail of the war was still dragging through the dead city, like a part of a giant prehistoric creature. The black sites of burned-out walls were besieged by clay clouds, as if the clouds were descending to rebuild the city.” It’s easy to see these stories, which use the surreal to understand the unreality of world events, on a continuum of fabulist Jewish writing that includes Franz Kafka and Bruno Schulz as well as contemporary storytellers, such as Etgar Keret and Nathan Englander. Those who are unfamiliar with Sutzkever—or, at least, unacquainted with his prose—will welcome this addition to the canon of experimental short fiction.

A wondrous book of tales of lost worlds.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73438-725-4

Page Count: 282

Publisher: White Goat Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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: 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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