A sparkling, strange, and enthralling debut from a vivid new voice in contemporary fiction.

THE ROCK EATERS

Sixteen genre-bending stories as substantial as they are superbly crafted.

Melding science fiction, fantasy, fable, and legend with atmospheric prose, these stories touch on a wide range of topics: immigration, race, climate change, the inexorable millennial hustle, influencers, gun culture, and the fraught, electric urgency of friendship between adolescent girls. In "Thoughts and Prayers," silent, guano-dripping angels preside over a suburban neighborhood, their "pale humanoid faces and downy bird bodies perched beside our chimneys," each believed to bring blessings or misfortune to the family that resides beneath it. "Yaiza" deftly examines class tensions and the myth of meritocracy against a backdrop of tennis court rivalry between two preteen girls: Yaiza, a "scholarship girl," and the narrator, whose family has hired Yaiza's grandmother as their latest housekeeper. In "The Great Escape," the narrator's great-aunt, spurred by paranoia brought on by Alzheimer's and a long-ago forced marriage to the nephew of Rafael Trujillo, locks herself in her apartment with increasingly intricate and impenetrable devices. Once an aspiring artist who was left with no medium to ply but the life and belongings she carefully curated, she now "lost things so diligently it was like a religion," as she herself is being erased by loss, time, greed, and, finally, disease. "The Kite Maker"—set 12 years after the arrival and widespread massacre of a buglike alien species that crash-landed on Earth after their home planet was destroyed by an asteroid—looks at xenophobia and personal and collective cruelty and responsibility in the aftermath of tectonic shifts to the old social order. And in "The Rock Eaters," a generation of Latin American island dwellers who, as adolescents, developed the ability to float, "discovering [they] could fly as far as [they]’d ever wanted," returns to their home island, bringing their foreign-born children and gifts for their parents of "fancy foreign clothes we...couldn’t really afford...to show them we’d been right all this time to have flown away." During their visit, some of the children begin to develop their own flying abilities, but unlike their parents, they tether themselves to their abandoned ancestral lives and land, eating rocks and soil to keep themselves from drifting away.

A sparkling, strange, and enthralling debut from a vivid new voice in contemporary fiction.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313562-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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