Sharp, inventive—and disorienting in all the good ways.

SUBDIVISION

An askew, uncanny—and consistently compelling—novel about memory, dislocation, and trauma.

A nameless woman—one without any past she seems able or inclined to access—checks into a guesthouse owned by two women, both ex-judges named Clara, and is assigned both a room named Mercy and, it seems, the task of completing an extremely challenging (and possibly shape-shifting) jigsaw puzzle in the common room. In the morning her hosts send her out, armed with a map and vague instructions, to look for a job and a place to live in their small, bewildering Subdivision, which is for now cut off from the nearby city. Our baffled but cheerful heroine takes all this in stride, mostly. She meets the (very few, frequently reappearing) denizens of this place. She makes an ally and protector in Cylvia, a hand-held digital assistant who requires light to stay charged; is threatened by the bakemono, a spirit who, in protean male guises, keeps trying to seduce or mislead her; keeps encountering and reencountering a small boy (who others seem to think accompanied her here) and a troubled delivery-truck driver who's also staying at the guesthouse. Eventually she secures work in an office tower abandoned after a wind-borne calamity in the vague but recent past, and there she gets sucked into a quantum-physics experiment involving tennis balls and a wall—an experiment being conducted by the tower's only other occupant. The tone is surreal and the result sometimes, à la Kafka, darkly funny. The novel features elements of the picaresque (she is Alice, or perhaps Gulliver), but it also has the everyday-suburban-made-strange-and-luminous quality of Steven Millhauser and the gleefully absurd, improvised feel of César Aira. Eventually the narrator's other, prior world starts to bleed through, and the reader gains tools that help to illuminate the mystery, if not quite (and bless Lennon for this) solve it.

Sharp, inventive—and disorienting in all the good ways.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64445-048-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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