A sexy, unflinching portrait of a woman revolting against the life she makes for herself.

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BEAUTY

In this literary novel, an ambitious but conflicted woman navigates the world of fashion while contending with her destructive attraction to sinister men.

When Amy Wong was still in high school, she lost her virginity to a middle-aged shoe salesman in exchange for a pair of $1,250 boots. The event foretold her career as an emerging designer in New York’s competitive fashion industry as well as a love life filled with older, predatory men. At Parsons, her White classmates mutter about affirmative action while the resident design mogul, Jeff Jones, exoticizes Amy’s Chinese heritage. That doesn’t keep her from sleeping with him, and, in fact, she agrees to marry him shortly after graduation. Everyone assumes she just did it to get ahead, but it isn’t long before she has ceased to be an up-and-coming designer and gets sidelined into being a wife and a mother to Jeff’s difficult child. Or, at least, she hopes he’s Jeff’s: “Maybe Jeff sensed it, somehow, or maybe he fell into his old patterns. He started to look elsewhere. He came home reeking of sex and Coco Mademoiselle. Fashion is a small industry. Everyone knew, which made me feel all the more helpless and ashamed.” Because of a prenup, Amy is forced to find a job after the marriage fails. Forget about making her mark on the industry; now, she just has to find a way to survive in it. Unfortunately for her, continued difficulties with her son, Alex, as well as further complications with the men in her life create even more drama. As she tries to navigate a world rife with subtle racism and flagrant sexism, Amy must also contend with her sexual appetites, her guilty motherhood, and the self-loathing that has always sabotaged her depthless creativity.

The book reads with the ease of a beach novel. Chiu’s prose rolls like fabric and pricks like a pin, piercing the politeness that covers up the deeper ugliness of nearly every social interaction. Here, Jeff attempts to correct Amy’s vision of him, just as she decides she might want to love him: “ ‘And that night,’ he says. ‘That wasn’t really me.’ I start to laugh. ‘You mean racist?’ ‘I was coked-up, high.’ He rolls his eyes. ‘So you’re not really racist,’ I say. ‘Only the coked-up you is racist?’ ‘Something like that, yes,’ he smirks.” Amy is a memorably intricate character, empathetic even as she is impulsive and sometimes thoughtless. The author deftly evokes the intensity of Amy’s desires—both physical and aesthetic—drawing readers along for every bad idea and moment of rebellion. The fashion world is depicted with luminous specificity—and, as a metaphorical field, it is perfectly selected—but Amy’s story will resonate for those operating in any industry in which the complex layers of race, gender, access, and propriety can complicate a woman’s every action. It’s a coming-of-age story that never stops, revealing how the decisions of youth reverberate and reoccur throughout the decades of a life.

A sexy, unflinching portrait of a woman revolting against the life she makes for herself.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73377-775-9

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Santa Fe Writers Project

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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