An uncategorizable novel that manages to be both zany and profound.



Three characters’ lives converge after their unnamed city is beset by a series of weird events.

As González’s English-language debut begins, three parallel narratives are intercut. Taxidermist Vik, a chronically ill immigrant from an invented island in the Caribbean, discovers through video surveillance that a strange woman is sneaking into his home while he’s at work. When he catches her unawares one day, she locks herself in his closet—and stays. Meanwhile, his museum colleague, Beryl, an ex-commune hippie, gathers a group of fellow senior citizens together to enact aggressive action when crazed deer start attacking people in the city. And then there is little Berenice, who, waking up one day to her mother’s sudden absence, believes she has become a “left-behind,” a child whose parents have become “dropouts,” resistance movement adherents who “were rejecting the duty of parenthood and returning the children to their rightful guardians”: the government. Bit by bit, these narratives come together as they reveal the three characters’ connections to each other and to a mysterious (fictional) plant called albaria, a hallucinogen that set their world on its current skewed path. If this sounds wacky, it is, but it’s wacky in the grim, smart way of a Coen brothers film. González, who lives in Argentina, uses absurdity to show us that there is the thinnest of lines between utopia and dystopia, all without ever naming any real-world correlates (aside from the novel’s pointed title and an even more pointed epigraph from Baudrillard about “the fiction of America”). Ultimately, this is a novel about the fictions—those myths about age, race, family, nationality, sexuality, health—that we tell ourselves. And how, as one of the characters says, “The destruction of a harmful system is an act of love.”

An uncategorizable novel that manages to be both zany and profound.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-62128-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


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


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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