An earnest but eccentric and aesthetically anarchic take on Christianity’s familiar mythos.

THE BOOK OF DARRYL

The high-concept Canadian documentarians behind I Live Here (2008) deploy their unique multimedia style in a whimsical biblical allegory.

Advertising is a weird science in its most mundane form, let alone the weird alchemy practiced by Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons over the past two decade as The Goggles, multimedia wunderkinds most memorable for the award-winning interactive documentary Welcome to Pine Point and the book I Live Here (2008), which documented life for refugees during wartime. Here they’re aided by filmmaker Bate and digital artist James Kerr (better known as Scorpion Dagger) for a literary amalgamation that is one part John Hughes, a dash of Douglas Coupland, and augmented with a series of .gif animations (which can be viewed through an app) that are fancifully Python-esque. The infrastructure is complicated since the book is fashioned around 16-year-old Darryl's messy, overstuffed personal diary, which chronicles his adolescent angst and potential triumph thanks to the arrival of a dodgy messiah. Darryl is a bit of a cipher, uncomfortable with expressing his thoughts and feelings except to his friend Wade, who “died peacefully in his sleep while hanging from a rafter with a rope tied around his neck.” His rare moments of solace lie in his band, “a bitchin’ power duo” propelled by his drummer, Mary, and egged on by their friend Jude. The milieu for this teenage daydream isn’t John Hughes' Shermer, Illinois, but the Naz—that’s Nazareth, as in “Jesus of,” not the Scottish heavy metal band. The book’s precipitating event is the arrival of Jay, son of God and the spark Darryl needs to transform his White Stripes–esque duo into a full-fledged band, Iron Messiah, which unites Darryl and Jay with the power of ROCK. It wouldn’t be a teenage daydream without some angst-y drama, which erupts when Jay takes over Darryl’s band, going so far as to replace him with a doppelgänger, while Jude aims to make some kind of artistic statement by blowing up Darryl’s only other confidant, a tree named Rooty. All of these shenanigans are illustrated with artful but moderately disturbing renditions inspired by medieval paintings and paired with an original heavy metal score.

An earnest but eccentric and aesthetically anarchic take on Christianity’s familiar mythos.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-3741-1531-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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