An intimate exploration of the unknown territory of desire, destruction, and whatever falls in between.

PERMAFROST

A young woman’s twin impulses toward sex and death merge into a duty to life in this lush English-translation debut.

The narrator of this lithe, prismatic book is unapologetic about her frank lesbian sexuality. She is a lover, an ardent explorer of the sensual, a student of bodies—including her own—who remains uninterested in the empty moralizing of middle-class values. Born in Barcelona to a family with a deeply neurotic mother, a distant father, and a younger sister interested in fulfilling all the gender norms of womanhood, the narrator struggles not with her sexual orientation but rather with the essential absurdity of a life lived in search of speciously defined material success. Convinced by her mother to get a degree in art history, rather than pursue the urge to create, the narrator spends her post-degree years immersed in books, which she understands as a sort of pleasurable abnegation of the self. She also travels, first leaving Barcelona for a stint as a Spanish tutor in Brussels, where she meets the incomparable Veronika, whose “thick, silken hair...remind[s her] of the surreal bundles of fiber optics that a technician had once threaded through the façade of [her] Barcelona apartment”; spending a brief time as an au pair in Scotland, where she feels that the “anomalous, flat and rich” green of the Scottish landscape “rises like a suffocating tide, floods every cavity, and colonizes the most fertile parts of my ego”; and returning home to Barcelona to eventually settle into work writing articles for a publication that makes her feel “colorless—a dreadful muddle of various hues, an unthinkably grim and grayish green.” Throughout, the narrator is obsessed not only with the physicality of her lovers and the pleasure she finds in their bodies, but also with the solace she perceives in thoughts of death. She has multiple near suicide attempts which are unconsummated not due to a lack of seriousness but rather due to external factors. The narrator seems likely to continue on this way, drifting between lovers and suicide attempts in a lucid swoon of sensation, were it not for the sudden illness of her 6-year old niece, Clàudia, which thrusts her into the unanticipated experience of wonder and reciprocal trust. Prior to this novel, Baltasar published 10 books of poetry in her native Catalan, and her poet’s sense of language as musculature—a body in its own right—flexes in every line of the carefully translated prose.

An intimate exploration of the unknown territory of desire, destruction, and whatever falls in between.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-91150-875-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: And Other Stories

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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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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