An intelligently executed love letter to Black female empowerment and the world of rock music.


A fictional history of a 1970s Black rock singer with a complicated past.

Sunny has just been named the new editor-in-chief of the storied music magazine Aural—the first Black person and woman to hold the position—when a scoop falls into her lap. It’s 2015, and Opal Jewel, “the ebony-skinned provocateur, the fashion rebel, the singer/screecher/Afro-Punk ancestor,” is contemplating a reunion tour with her old musical partner, Nev Charles, an Englishman who’s since embarked on a successful solo career; Opal herself hasn’t performed live in more than 25 years. Sunny begins writing a book—this book, an oral history of Opal and Nev’s brief but iconic collaboration during the early '70s—and focuses particularly on the disastrous 1971 concert in which a racist mob kills Opal and Nev’s drummer, a Black man named Jimmy Curtis. Sunny’s interest in the story is more than merely professional: Curtis, she discloses in an "Editor’s Note" at the very beginning of the book, was her father—and Opal his mistress while Sunny’s mother was married to Curtis and pregnant with her. Nevertheless, the first section of the book bears all the hallmarks of a rigorously reported work of journalism. Sunny interviews everyone from the label’s receptionist to Opal’s stylist and stitches together quotes to form a multifaceted narrative of Opal and Nev’s rise. But as Sunny reconstructs the events leading up to her father’s death, she hears something that changes the story she thought she knew—and forces her to shed her protective, professional shell. Debut author Walton wields the oral history form with easy skill, using its suggestion of conversation and potential for humor to give her characters personality. “But also Virgil sold reefer. Everybody loves the reefer man,” Sunny quotes Opal saying about her stylist. Immediately after: “VIRGIL LAFLEUR: I styled ladies’ hair. That’s how I paid my bills. I don’t know what she’s told you.” And the author adeptly captures the particular tenor of discussions of race in the early '70s (Opal’s destruction of a Confederate flag sets off the fateful riot) and in the age of memes: The creator of one Opal GIF, Sunny muses, “understood the culture and the language and this current moment of Black exasperation, and was nodding to the eerie relevance of Opal Jewel in them.”

An intelligently executed love letter to Black female empowerment and the world of rock music.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982140-16-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: 37 Ink/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet