A sometimes-enjoyable read but one that’s too narrowly focused to have much impact.

RICH PICKINGS

A young Englishman starts a career in investment banking in this novel set in 2006.

Jake Egerton is a recent graduate of Oxford University, and he and his friends Tim and Wes move to London, where they start their careers in investment banking. Jake works hard, eager to impress his bosses at his company, Brasher Menthol, so he may quickly move up the ladder. His hard work leads to some success, but it starts taking a toll on his mental health as he begins to experience severe anxiety. A tense investment deal in Azania, in southern Africa, increases Jake’s stress. However, his difficulties don’t stop him from toiling away in his job despite concerns from his friends, who frequently lament the “soullessness” of the industry. The story, told through Jake’s journal entries, is often fun and digestible, peppered with mid-2000s slang and easy conversation between Jake and his pals. However, the plot is very niche-oriented, with each chapter beginning with an “Average EM [Emerging Markets]$bond Spread” and a lot of dialogue focusing on aspects of the financial industry that may be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with them: “The investors will get some juicy EM yield in a world where, let’s face it, you could hardly buy a six percent a year return for love or money.” Jake, as a character, is mostly static aside from his developing anxiety; he goes on the occasional date and chats with his pals, but more often, he simply works at his job, gets a bit stressed, takes a beta blocker, and continues working. The stakes of the story never feel particularly thrilling, and the ending does little to remedy this.

A sometimes-enjoyable read but one that’s too narrowly focused to have much impact.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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