While a little thin, plotwise, Sweeney's second novel lives up to its title: warm, witty, and interesting.

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A tale of two marriages and a long-buried secret.

Thirteen years ago, when their daughter, Ruby, was 5 and they were having the happiest summer of their lives, Flora's husband, Julian, lost his wedding ring in a pond. The pond was on a property in upstate New York where Julian's theater group—Good Company—was putting on their annual outdoor play. There was a photo taken of the family sitting on the steps with their best friends, Margot and David, all leaning together, arms entwined around Ruby. Now Ruby is graduating from high school, and Flora is looking for the photograph to frame as a gift. In the process, she finds something else: the wedding ring that was supposed to be in the pond. While that unfortunate situation is unfolding in the present, flashbacks take us to the history of the friendships. Along the way, the characters' working worlds are depicted in absorbing detail: Margot is a megastar on a hospital TV series, Flora is a former Broadway singer and dancer, now a voice-over artist, David is—or was, actually—a cardiac surgeon. One of the best scenes in the book is the night David and Margot meet, over the body of a heart attack victim during Shakespeare in the Park. Always the New York maven, Sweeney nails the Central Park setting—"teenagers shrieking, the occasional smash of a bottle of beer morphing into a million glittering emeralds on the pavement"—and amusingly notes the many different versions of the story that survive over years of retelling. No one can agree how David ended up onstage or how they got to the Chinese restaurant afterward, but Margot "knew her version was—if not the most accurate—the best." All that said, this novel is far quieter than Sweeney's hit debut, The Nest (2016), and the characters are less well developed. We should know Flora best, but Margot is more clearly drawn (which would be no surprise to Flora, always second fiddle).

While a little thin, plotwise, Sweeney's second novel lives up to its title: warm, witty, and interesting.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287600-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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