Incisive social commentary rendered in artful, original, and powerfully affecting prose.

THIN GIRLS

A first-time novelist explores the abuse women inflict on themselves, the abuse others inflict upon them, and the intersection of the two.

When they were small, Lily and Rose were essentially indistinguishable—even to themselves. As they approached adolescence, though, Lily, the outgoing, people-pleasing twin, had become everyone’s favorite while obstinate, awkward Rose became her sister’s shadow. Their relationship to each other changed again when Rose discovered a talent for enduring the fad diets imposed by the leader of their clique. As Rose stops eating altogether, Lily starts eating more and more. Rose recounts this history as she embarks on her second year in a clinic where she is supposed to be recovering from anorexia but is really consuming just enough calories to avoid force-feeding. She likes the comforting routine of the clinic and the company of other “thin girls.” It’s only when Rose realizes that Lily is in a dangerously abusive relationship that she becomes determined to return to the outside world. Rose is a strange and prickly character, constantly interrupting her narration with bits of trivia from the random assortment of books available at the clinic. She is both truthful and wily, and her powers of insight are prodigious—except when she’s analyzing herself. It takes her a very long time, for example, to discover that her efforts to shrink her body down to nothingness are related to her unwillingness to accept her own sexuality. The story she tells is as gripping as a thriller, but it’s Clarke’s language that truly makes this novel special. She writes with a lyricism that not only encompasses the grotesque and the transcendent, but also sometimes commingles the two. When Rose finds a collection of short fiction Lily has written, these harrowing little fables bring the latent otherworldliness of the novel as a whole to the surface.

Incisive social commentary rendered in artful, original, and powerfully affecting prose.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-298668-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

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

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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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