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


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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Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.


A long-lost painting sets in motion a plot intertwining the odyssey of a famed 19th-century thoroughbred and his trainer with the 21st-century rediscovery of the horse’s portrait.

In 2019, Nigerian American Georgetown graduate student Theo plucks a dingy canvas from a neighbor’s trash and gets an assignment from Smithsonian magazine to write about it. That puts him in touch with Jess, the Smithsonian’s “expert in skulls and bones,” who happens to be examining the same horse's skeleton, which is in the museum's collection. (Theo and Jess first meet when she sees him unlocking an expensive bike identical to hers and implies he’s trying to steal it—before he points hers out further down the same rack.) The horse is Lexington, “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history,” nurtured and trained from birth by Jarret, an enslaved man who negotiates with this extraordinary horse the treacherous political and racial landscape of Kentucky before and during the Civil War. Brooks, a White writer, risks criticism for appropriation by telling portions of these alternating storylines from Jarret’s and Theo’s points of view in addition to those of Jess and several other White characters. She demonstrates imaginative empathy with both men and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness, as when Theo takes Jess’ clumsy apology—“I was traumatized by my appalling behavior”—and thinks, “Typical….He’d been accused, yet she was traumatized.” Jarret is similarly but much more covertly irked by well-meaning White people patronizing him; Brooks skillfully uses their paired stories to demonstrate how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable when a Union officer angrily describes his Confederate prisoners as “lost to a narrative untethered to anything he recognized as true.…Their fabulous notions of what evils the Federal government intended for them should their cause fail…was ingrained so deep, beyond the reach of reasonable dialogue or evidence.” The 21st-century chapters’ shocking denouement drives home Brooks’ point that too much remains the same for Black people in America, a grim conclusion only slightly mitigated by a happier ending for Jarret.

Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-39-956296-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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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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