A localized but no less powerful look at the prologue to Emancipation.


When an abolitionist convention comes to Utica, New York, in 1835, mayhem both public and private ensues.

In this eloquent debut, a diverse cast of characters embodies the political, class, and racial upheavals of its time and milieu, and does it all in living local color. Helen, an orphan raised in a genteel finishing school for young ladies, is wed in a quasi-arranged marriage to Galway, a prosperous older widower. Her naïveté regarding the issues of the day—in school she was taught that Southern masters treated their slaves like family—is tested when Imari and her son, Joe, escapees from a Virginia plantation, turn up in Galway’s shed. Helen’s domicile is further disrupted when Galway breaks his leg in a drunken fall, ushering quack doctor McCooke into their midst, as lecherous as he is incompetent. Meanwhile, Pryce, a young man unsure of his career path, pays more welcome attention to Helen. The streets of Utica come alive, especially as observed by minor characters—Owen Sylvanus, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Alvan Stewart, a crusading lawyer leading the abolitionists, and Horace Wilberforce, a fishmonger and fixer. Utica’s section of the Erie Canal, where freighters are hauled by mules along a towpath, is vividly evoked. Slave catchers have arrived, not only menacing Imari and Joe, but rallying the mob against the abolitionists. Galway himself opposes abolition—instead, he advocates sending American Blacks to colonize Liberia. His servant, Maggie, who was formerly enslaved by his family, is a force to be reckoned with. Since Helen is the second Mrs. Galway, the title provides a clue to explosive family secrets. The text treads very carefully when treating the subject of slavery, and, occasionally, unavoidable echoes of today’s world lead to didactic moments that feel anachronistic. Often, when too many characters crowd into a scene, the logistics can verge on unintentional farce. But despite Sinnott’s extensive research into her hometown and its role in abolition, the pace is never slowed by excessive detail.

A localized but no less powerful look at the prologue to Emancipation.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61775-842-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Kaylie Jones/Akashic

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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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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