A subtle and moving exploration of love, family, race, and the long, frustrating search for home.

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MEMORIAL

Benson and Mike, a mixed-race couple in Houston, search for the truth about themselves, each other, and their families.

This debut novel from Washington—author of the award-winning story collection Lot (2019)—is split into three vividly written sections. The first and third are narrated by Benson, an African American man living in Houston with his boyfriend, Mike, who narrates the middle section. Benson and Mike are on the verge of breaking up, but their passion for each other keeps them from being able to fully pull away. Both men have families they feel distant from: Benson’s father is an alcoholic who never fully accepted his son’s homosexuality, and Mike’s divorced parents have both left Houston for their native Japan. At the start of the novel, Mike’s mother, Mitsuko, flies to Houston to visit him at the same time that his father, Eiju, falls seriously ill back in Osaka. Mike picks Mitsuko up from the airport, leaves her with Benson, then flies across the ocean to visit Eiju, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Neither Benson nor Mitsuko is happy about being stuck with each other, but they slowly develop a relationship that’s not quite friendship and not quite family. They both love the same man, and that’s enough to help them understand each other. In Osaka, Mike cares for his sick, grumpy father and helps him run his bar though their relationship is strained. Mike isn’t rushing to forgive his homophobic father for leaving the family in Houston, and Eiju is cold and distant. Both Mike and Benson fall into relationships with other men while they're apart, and ultimately, both have to decide how to forgive the people closest to them. Washington’s novel is richly layered and thrives in the quiet moments between lovers and family members. Benson and Mike know they could hurt each other, hurt their families, hurt themselves, or they could say words to heal and bring people together. As Mike says, “How did everything come to such a turning point between us? Quietly, I guess. The big moments are never big when they’re actually fucking happening.” There is passion in this novel—fight scenes, sex scenes, screaming matches, and tears—but it reaches a deep poetic realism when Washington explores the space between characters. When so much is left unsaid, that’s when this novel speaks the loudest.

A subtle and moving exploration of love, family, race, and the long, frustrating search for home.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08727-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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