A story as lively as those stone lions.

THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE

Returning to her trademark depictions of historic Manhattan buildings, Davis has set her latest in the New York Public Library.

The NYPL has a special significance for three generations of the Lyons family, whose surname appears to be a nod to the institution’s sentry lions. In 1913, library superintendent Jack Lyons,  his wife, Laura, and their two children, Pearl and Harry, inhabit seven rooms on the library’s mezzanine. In alternating sections set in 1993, Sadie Donovan, Pearl's daughter, is also a library administrator, curating the Berg Collection of rare books. This collection includes mementos of Laura Lyons, whose reputation as an early feminist essayist is enjoying a resurgence. Shortly before Pearl, who lives with Sadie’s brother, Lonnie, dies at 87, she hints at a long-kept secret concerning Tamerlane, a volume of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry that disappeared from the library on Jack Lyons’ watch. As it happens, this novel is less a paean to architecture than a tale of two book heists, 80 years apart. On the continuum of crime, pilfering books—even invaluable artifacts like a first edition of Leaves of Grass, a page from a Shakespeare First Folio, the last diary Virginia Woolf kept before her suicide, and that priceless edition of Poe—ranks rather low on the thrill-o-meter. So Davis attempts to inject juicier conflicts. Laura’s struggle to get a degree from Columbia's journalism school is doomed to fail thanks to flagrant sexism (though a professor plagiarizes her thesis). Sadie, who's still reeling from a difficult divorce, is a suspect in the book thefts, as was her grandfather, Jack. The tension needle is hardly moved by flat characterizations or improbable plot developments while the writing is strictly functional: long on exposition, short on atmosphere.

A story as lively as those stone lions.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4461-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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