An artful, thought-provoking, and memorable work of fiction.

CHILD OF GILEAD

A modern-day parable about truth, retribution, and grace that combines gritty inner-city realism with fairy-tale symbolism.

This unusual and ambitious novel from the author of Garden’s Corner (1997) packs multiple stories, dozens of characters, and profound ideas about the meaning of life, the value of faith, and the nature of truth into just 250 pages. The Boy, a 10-year-old who narrates half the chapters, lives a quiet, ordinary life on a nice, safe block in the City (a place that natives of Brooklyn, New York, will recognize). He rides his bike to the pizzeria and playground, goes to school and church, and stays away from a nearby housing project, named Gilead, where his mother doesn’t allow him to go. One day, a new tenant, known simply as the Old Man, comes to stay in the basement apartment that the Boy’s mother, a teacher, rents out. The man was a friend of the Boy’s grandfather and has returned to settle some unfinished business with people who harmed Mama in the past. Meanwhile, one of Mama’s young pupils has vanished after being picked up from school by her stepfather. The stories of the Boy, his mom, and the Old Man intersect in unexpected ways as the narrative moves back and forth in time, place, and point of view—from the rural South to the local church to the backrooms of the City’s illegal enterprises. The novel begins at a leisurely pace and builds through increasingly dramatic scenes to a powerful conclusion. Reed connects his narrative to timeless themes with his artistic choices, such as nesting stories within stories; giving the characters’ simple, descriptive names (the Pastor, the Kid, the Candy Man, the Merchant); and beginning every seventh chapter with a biblical quote. In engaging dialogue, the characters grapple with the impossibility of protecting children, the power of secrets, the value of storytelling, and whether a person can transcend his innate nature.

An artful, thought-provoking, and memorable work of fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-947481-87-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 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 compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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