A mix of great setups and occasionally frustrating misfires.

F*CKING ARGENTINA AND 10 MORE TALES OF EXASPERATION

A debut collection of short stories featuring characters with even shorter tempers.

Greenberg’s set of 11 tales starts with a dictionary definition of “exasperation,” and that “feeling of intense irritation or annoyance” radiates from each of these quick narratives. In the tradition of essayists such as David Sedaris and TV shows like HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Greenberg tells stories of highly neurotic antiheroes and their outsized responses to life’s little problems. In the opener, Mitchell Weinberger, a divorced father, suffers through small talk with overbearing parents at his child’s back-to-school gathering. In “Panic in Shubert Alley,” a nameless man runs around New York City’s Times Square theater district looking for his forgetful mother’s purse, and in “A Side of Exasperation on the NJ Turnpike,” a desperate dad finds himself trapped in a drive-thru while trying to order hamburgers. Greenberg consistently keeps to his theme, but in some works, he stretches into particularly imaginative displays of irritability, as when he constructs  an entire story out of text messages between a husband and wife, or personifies the entire nation of Argentina as a deadbeat friend. The author effectively marshals a wide array of annoyances, but a standout appears in “The Last Couples Dinner,” in which a woman faces off against an “X+1”—a man who feels compelled to one-up everything anyone else says. There are several mentions of the Covid-19 crisis over the course of the book, which cleverly link the tales to the collective exhaustion of the past year. Despite the stories’ extremely short lengths, Greenberg occasionally manages to kindle slow burns of awkward irritation, as in his reveal of a subway stench in “Malodor on the Number Five Express.” However, several jokes don’t quite connect, including a Billy Joel–based breakup that turns into a list of lyrics, and as the title implies, the author often relies too much on expletives to get laughs.

A mix of great setups and occasionally frustrating misfires.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-09-835799-3

Page Count: 108

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more