An atmospheric novel about an independent young woman in a South Korean beach town.

Dusapin's debut novel depicts a young biracial Korean woman living and working in a small guesthouse in Sokcho, South Korea, a beach town 60 km from the North Korean border. When a mysterious middle-aged Frenchman named Yan Kerrand arrives, off-season, in the midst of the winter slump, the woman is intrigued. She has never met her father, a Frenchman who left her mother after a brief affair, but has studied French language and literature in school and dreams of traveling to the country someday. The novel unfolds in brief vignettelike chapters that reveal the unnamed woman's daily life. After work, she visits her mother, who works in the fish market and is renowned for her delicious octopus soondae. Despite pressure to marry, the young woman is ambivalent about her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, Jun-oh, an aspiring model in Seoul. Dusapin's novel avoids clichés in the woman's developing relationship with the lonely foreigner, who turns out to be an internationally renowned graphic novelist looking for inspiration for a new book. The woman observes the man and never looks at him as a savior or stereotypical lover. Instead, Dusapin depicts a fiercely intelligent, independent woman who longs to be seen clearly for who she is and the choices she has made, including leaving Seoul to help her aging mother. Higgins' exquisite translation from the French original is a pleasure to read. The descriptions of daily life in the titular town are beautiful, elliptical, and fascinating, from the fish markets near the beach to soju-drenched dinners in local bistros to a surreal glimpse of a museum on the DMZ. Dusapin, who like her protagonist is of French and Korean heritage, has won several awards for her novel in Switzerland, where she lives, including the Prix Robert-Walser and the Prix Régine Desforges.

A triumph.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948830-41-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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

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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

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