Funny, allegorical, and profound stories.

THE WEREWOLF OF POLNOYE AND OTHER STORIES

Characters burdened by guilt, regret, and ostensible madness populate White’s collection of provocative tales.

Amy Sullivan is excited to be on her own attending the University of Minnesota in “The Enigma Man.” She’s ready to explore the wonders far away from her Iowa hometown, like the mysterious titular figure who frequents the library where she works. But learning about this man may not bring her the answers she wants. It’s a dispassion that characters experience throughout White’s book. Joseph Singer of “Winter Journeys,” for example, is a man who’s never accepted his biological father as a dad and considers himself an unwanted child. The author typically fills his stories with metaphors. In the case of “The Antijew,” a legendary creature’s most recent incarnation is Sol Pinsky, who, despite little recognition, inexplicably earns 93% of the popular vote in the U.S. presidential election. The stories are multilayered, including those with overt religious themes. “A Brief History of Madness,” for one, follows Joseph Christman, an orphan who ultimately becomes an apprentice carpenter. But it’s also about a boy at a Catholic college whose professor deems him insolent merely for questioning biblical stories. White’s prose is simple yet elegant: A rabbi describes a reputedly invisible wagon as, “A magic wagon to be sure, but magic or no, it makes a lot of noise if you drive it too fast. I am afraid that there is no magic for that.” There are instances of wry humor as well. In the title story, a werewolf in the town of Polnoye is primarily a nuisance, disrupting men’s prayers and making “shambles” of bar mitzvahs. How the townsfolk handle said wolf is pleasantly surprising. The book features Chicago-based artist Segedin’s work in various media (acrylic, watercolor, etc.), showcasing a consistent style spanning decades.

Funny, allegorical, and profound stories. (author bio, artist’s bio)

Pub Date: March 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-09-830349-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Book Baby

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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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: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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

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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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