Rich, complex, entertaining tales of strangers in strange lands.

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Restless men go abroad in search of sex, love, and belonging in these adventurous short stories.

Jaffe, the author of Yeled Tov (2018), sends his protagonists, most of them gay and Jewish, to unfamiliar places to encounter people and situations that stimulate them carnally and spiritually. In “The Importance of Being Jurassic,” an American reporter in Dublin encounters a closeted Catholic man who regards oral sex as a filthy sacrament, and in “Cobblestone Elegy,” a Jewish American in Prague meets the ghost of a gay Holocaust martyr. A middle-aged Soviet woman, looking for a way to immigrate to the United States, tries to lure a decades-younger American student into marriage in “Innocence Abroad.” In “The Trickster,” an aging man at a convention of “bears and chasers” in Catalonia imagines that all the young, attractive men are lusting for his corpulent body, and a new widower falls in love with a frankly businesslike yet soulful female sex worker in Seville in “El Bochorno.” In the sexually graphic “Walpurgisnacht,” a Catholic soul knocking on heaven’s gate struggles to explain to St. Peter why he engaged in a Satanic sex-murder orgy at a German bathhouse during his last night on earth. Over the course of this book, Jaffe’s lively, limpid prose features sharply etched characters and passages that shift between absurdist humor (as when a character wonders why an old man on a plane “ensconced himself toe-to-head within a 30-gallon, heavy-duty, clear plastic trash bag”), sly social observation (“No matter how many times you wink at him, he will not return your glance, will just take some book out of his bright blue backpack and read—or pretend to”), and wry sensuality. The result is a redolent blend of atmospheric travelogue, earthy physicality, satire, magical realism, and Kafkaesque disorientation—the latter most notably in “The Return,” in which a descendant of Jewish conversos returns to the Spain that his ancestors fled and finds himself bombarded with hallucinatory inducements to take up his deceased relatives’ gentile ways.

Rich, complex, entertaining tales of strangers in strange lands.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73414-642-4

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Rattling Good Yarns Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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

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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.


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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