A thoughtful, realistic portrait of uncompromising femininity.

ARDOR

A NOVEL

In Thomas’ debut coming-of-age novel, a liberal, headstrong girl lives her life in the conservative South.

Ardor is a young woman determined to live whatever way she pleases. As readers learn through various flashbacks, her childhood home broke when her father ran off with another woman, sending her mother into a series of vacant love affairs that distracted her from her children. The one bright spot in Ardor’s life was her beloved older brother, who served as both corrupter and protector, but even his presence is eventually snatched away. Ardor remains fierce, though, and doesn’t let tragedy stop her from going about her life. She’s well-liked and can make friends with relative ease. She makes lovers with relative ease, too. Ardor has had plenty of flings throughout her young life, causing many in her community to label her a slut, but she takes it all in stride. She never lets the watchful eyes of others stop her from doing what she wants, whether it’s kissing another woman in a committed relationship or sleeping with a married man. With such a long list of vices, it’s little wonder that she’s drawn to nonjudgmental people. Ardor is nonjudgmental herself—unless, of course, someone hurts her or happens to have a value system stricter than hers, in which case, nothing can stop her wrath. She’s not above chewing someone out or lighting a lawn on fire. Readers with a rigid value system may find Ardor’s attitude difficult to swallow at first, but if they can adjust, they’ll be rewarded with a realistic story about the joys and pains of growing up. Along the way, Ardor falls into a typical trap: failing to acknowledge her own judgmental tendencies. Still, it’s a human, realistic fault to have, especially for young people, which highlights the novel’s well-developed coming-of-age motif. Like many young people, Ardor knows everything and lives for the moment. For all the fun she has, however, her life remains quite empty. The vignettes that form the novel’s narrative are somewhat nonchronological, which draws attention to the haphazard, scattered history of lovers who meant nothing. Oddly enough, it’s in the moments she experiences loss that her life seems to hold the most water.

A thoughtful, realistic portrait of uncompromising femininity.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477682920

Page Count: 256

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2012

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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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