Ojeda shows readers a world that will be unfamiliar to many.

LAS BIUTY QUEENS

STORIES

A Latinx writer and performer shares scenes from 1990s New York.

Ojeda was born in Chile. After graduating from university, he/she (Ojeda identifies as both male and female and uses the pronoun he/she) immigrated to the United States. The stories in this collection are set in his/her new home in New York, and they are peopled by sex workers and drag performers. These stories are written in the first person, and when the narrator has a name, it’s almost always Monalisa. There’s nothing unusual, of course, about an author mining their own life for fiction. That said, these short works feel more like excerpts from a diary than stories with a narrative trajectory. What Ojeda presents, for the most part, is a series of things that happened. “In the Bote” relates the narrator’s experience the first time they are put in prison for prostitution. This account will be instructive for anyone who has never spent time at Rikers Island, and there are certainly some details that most readers are unlikely to find elsewhere. The Chilean protagonist has been advised to give the police a fake Puerto Rican name because this is less likely to lead to involvement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Another Chilean inmate takes this first-timer under his wing and…that’s about it. The narrator’s friends get bail money together, and that’s that. In “Ortiz Funeral Home,” Monalisa goes to a friend’s wake. There’s a bit of drama when an unknown someone snatches a bag of cocaine out of the dead woman’s hands, but Ojeda doesn’t develop this detail—or any other element of the story—and the piece just keeps going until it stops. This formlessness is typical of the works gathered here. There are, however, instances when the writing transcends the recitation of facts. “Biuty Queen” is a monologue by a contestant about to participate in “the most important beauty pageant for transsexuals in all the United States.” Deborah Hilton has won five crowns already, she has paid for her dresses and backup dancers with sex work, and she has zero regrets. “Obviously, it was worth it. The crown looks gorgeous on me.” It’s a pleasure to spend time inside the head of someone so emphatically herself.

Ojeda shows readers a world that will be unfamiliar to many.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-662-60030-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Astra House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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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: 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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