Readers who share the protagonist’s cultural passion—his crusade, really—may enjoy this tale.


A debut novel takes on the academic and cultural establishment, especially in New York City.

Young David Green is a lavishly talented pianist and composer. He is also a rebel, disgusted with modernism and postmodernism in music (and the other arts). His self-appointed mission is to turn back the clock and revive the classical music—Romantic, most of all—that he loves. This is no less than a heroic quest to save modern culture, a culture that has become a cesspool in every regard. He wants—demands—no less than a second Renaissance. To this end, he recruits some like-minded young talents: an architect, a painter, a sculptor, and a poet. This gang of five becomes the Second Renaissance Artist Group. It does not go well. David’s unyielding zealotry drives them all off eventually, and the musician spirals down to an attempted suicide. With the help of the New York City Police Department, Dr. Bill Leornig, a psychologist, talks David off the Brooklyn Bridge. Leornig takes charge of the troubled David’s recovery. Will David ultimately soldier on alone in his noble cause? While his prose is sometimes a bit awkward, Magnet displays talent. In fact, as a kind of lagniappe, there are four quite clever short stories following the novel itself. He does strive mightily to make the characters, especially David, real and believable, a novelist’s prime job. And he is fervently committed to the view that David stands for. But a thesis novel, a work that is really written in the service of One Big Idea, runs the risk of sinking under the weight of that concept and of having its characters be merely puppets and mouthpieces. Such fiction/essay hybrids are always problematic. At one point, Magnet invites readers to skip, if they like, a long disquisition on art and psychology and get back to the plot (David hanging off the bridge), something akin to an actor’s breaking the fourth wall. This, then, is a book for readers who are intrigued by the hero’s artistic cause. (There are useful notes in the back.)

Readers who share the protagonist’s cultural passion—his crusade, really—may enjoy this tale.

Pub Date: June 19, 2019


Page Count: 422

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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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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Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.


A young woman finds herself at a Covid-induced crossroads in Picoult’s latest ultratopical novel.

Sotheby’s associate Diana O'Toole, age 29, and her surgical resident boyfriend, Finn, are planning a trip to the Galapagos in March 2020. But as New York City shuts down, Finn is called to do battle against Covid-19 in his hospital’s ICU and ER, while Diana, at his urging, travels to the archipelago alone. She arrives on Isabela Island just as quarantine descends and elects to stay, though her luggage was lost, her hotel is shuttered, and her Spanish is “limited.” What follows is the meticulously researched depiction Picoult readers have come to expect, of the flora and fauna of this island and both its paradisiacal and dangerous aspects. Beautiful lagoons hide riptides, spectacular volcanic vistas conceal deep pits—and penguins bite! A hotel employee known only as Abuela gives Diana shelter at her home. Luckily, Abuela’s grandson Gabriel, a former tour guide, speaks flawless English, as does his troubled daughter, Beatriz, 14, who was attending school off-island when the pandemic forced her back home. Beatriz and Diana bond over their distant and withholding mothers: Diana’s is a world-famous photographer now consigned to a memory care facility with early-onset Alzheimer’s, while Beatriz’s ran off with a somewhat less famous photographer. Despite patchy cellphone signals and Wi-Fi, emails from Finn break through, describing, also in Picoult’s spare-no-detail starkness, the horrors of his long shifts as the virus wreaks its variegated havoc and the cases and death toll mount. Diana is venturing into romantically and literally treacherous waters when Picoult yanks this novel off life-support by resorting to a flagrantly hackneyed plot device. Somehow, though, it works, thanks again to that penchant for grounding every fictional scenario in thoroughly documented fact. Throughout, we are treated to pithy if rather self-evident thematic underscoring, e.g. “You can’t plan your life….Because then you have a plan. Not a life.”

Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984818-41-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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