Memorable characters inhabit a surprising, engaging story of American idealism and its dark opposite.


An impressive debut novel tells a wide-ranging story of mysterious connections among vividly rendered characters in 20th-century America.

This novel’s nine chapters stretch across four decades at intervals of five years. Each has a different main character, and their settings crisscross the country. The book opens in 1947 with Oliver Danville, a “washed-up stage actor” and pool shark, who witnesses a friend’s murder and decides to change his life. When he reads a newspaper story about a military pilot who saw a group of UFOs, the “shiny objects” of the title, he’s galvanized by a vision of a better world. After a chance meeting with a farm family, Oliver takes off, farmer and wife in tow, for the West. Five years later, Oliver, now called the Tzadi Sophit, is the leader of a California cult that aims to create a multiracial utopia. In 1957, he and his followers move across the country into a newly built town adjacent to a Long Island suburb and are violently attacked by some of their neighbors. The echoes of that terrible night shape the main characters in the rest of the chapters: a young black man embarking on an intellectual life in Harlem, a salesman in Florida who makes a wild career change, a woman who hosts a conspiracy-theory radio show in Phoenix, another woman whose husband was the ringleader of the attack, a teenage girl whose grandparents and parents were targets of the attack, and finally an old man, the son of Oliver’s first followers, still on their farm and haunted by the ghost of his brother. Several characters recur, including Max Felt, who was a boy during the attack and grows up to be a rock star and something of a cult leader himself. Max and Oliver remain mysterious characters whose thoughts the reader has little access to, and the plot is built around mysteries as well—many chapters end in a cliffhanger without resolution. But Castleberry maintains deft control of the novel’s arc, making satisfying connections and bringing rich characters to life.

Memorable characters inhabit a surprising, engaging story of American idealism and its dark opposite.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-298439-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 38

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.


The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

Did you like this book?