The warmth and humanity of Goldman's storytelling are impossible to resist.


During a five-day visit to his hometown of Boston, a writer attempts to fit together the pieces of his own past, his mother's, and that of her native Guatemala.

"I wish I could remember every single second of my entire life so far, in full 3-D Technicolor and surround sound, and at every past scene re-inhabit myself exactly as I was." This is the yearning of Francisco Goldberg, Goldman's fictional alter ego in an autobiographical novel that touches on some of the same ground as his magical, prizewinning debut, The Long Night of White Chickens (1992). Frankie, as he was called in his youth (along with Monkey Boy and other unpleasantries), has returned to Boston to have dinner with a high school girlfriend, occasioning an avalanche of memories of his classmates' racism, his father's violence, and his breach with his only sister but also sweeter recollections of his relationships with the series of young Guatemalan women who were sent by his Abuelita to help his mother around the house. He arranges to meet with two of them and pays several visits to his mother at her nursing home, a tin of her favorite French butter cookies in hand. They play a very lenient bilingual version of Scrabble as he wheedles out long-missing details about her ancestry, her marriage, other men in her past. His Mamita may not have the memory she once did, but that's not the only reason she hesitates. She's read that first novel of his, too. "This is why I never want to tell you anything, because you take just a little thread of truth and pull on it and out comes a made-up story." Goldman's—or Goldberg's?—immersive, restless narrative style expertly plays the rhythms of thought and remembrance, weaving in his past and current romances, his investigation of and published work on Guatemalan terror, ultimately the quest for a whole made of so many halves: half Jewish, half Catholic, half American, half Guatemalan, half White, half Latino....

The warmth and humanity of Goldman's storytelling are impossible to resist.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5767-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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