A complex and intimate meditation on love, guilt, and the decisions that haunt us forever.

HADES, ARGENTINA

After a decade abroad, a refugee of Argentina’s Dirty War returns to Buenos Aires, where ghosts of his past guide him through a nightmarish labyrinth of memory, guilt, and loss.

In 1976, Tomás Orilla disappeared from Argentina without a trace, smuggled out by his childhood mentor, the Colonel, after coming dangerously close to death at the hands of the oppressive military junta. Now, 10 years later, he is Thomas Shore, a translator in New York City who is haunted by the traumas of the past and contending with a failing marriage. The impending death of Pichuca, an old family friend, occasions his return to Buenos Aires, where he moved as a teenager under the pretense of attending medical school, though his true motive was to be closer to Pichuca’s daughter, Isabel, a spirited and fiery young woman whom he loved since childhood. But the city Tomás returns to is riddled with ghosts: the ghosts of Isabel and the Colonel, the ghosts of the disappeared and the ghosts of their captors, the ghost of the young man he once was. With the Colonel’s spirit as his guide, Tomás returns to the sites containing all his darkest memories and his most profound regrets, and the boundary between the present and the past becomes increasingly indistinct. Back in 1976, Isabel, who is involved with a leftist insurgent group, exploits Tomás’ devotion to her and requests that he work for her as a double agent, launching a sequence of events that compromises his life: spying on the Colonel and finding employment at a concentration camp for dissidents. However, this is less a tour through memory than a reckoning, as Tomás struggles to identify the discrete choices he would need to undo to prevent Isabel’s disappearance and to save himself from the nightmare of his past.

A complex and intimate meditation on love, guilt, and the decisions that haunt us forever.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18864-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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 haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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