Starts off strong but collapses under the morally suspect musings of a dead man.

SUPERIOR SACRIFICES

Kellis (The Word That You Heard, 2010, etc.) explores a tight-lipped family’s private pain and guilt in a novel that plays out among small-town gossip in the Upper Peninsula.

Fraternal twins Marcia and Mitch Harrison share the power of “thought transference.” As the last people to see Howard Barstow before he disappeared on homecoming night 35 years ago, they also share a dark secret. Marcia struggles with the memories of the rape inflicted by Howard on that horrible night. She’s also haunted by the child she gave up for adoption, a daughter she calls Daisy. Torn between wanting to know her child and fearing what scars the girl might reveal, Marcia leads a quiet life as a bookstore owner with her loving husband, Evan, and their boisterous boys, Owen and Simon. After Mitch dies in a car accident, Marcia discovers a notebook among his possessions. In random entries listed from October 1975 to August 1976, Mitch tells of his role in what Marcia calls “the tight circle of our secret.” As an added layer, Kellis introduces Daphne Hallorhan, a newly downsized architect looking to solve her own mystery as she searches for her birth parents, Marcia and Howard. Mitch’s allusions to the Rockford Files and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in nearby Lake Superior bring the Watergate years to life, while the notebook chapters seem more concerned with filling in the gaps left by Marcia’s version of events than trying to expunge the guilt and fear Mitch claims to feel. His observations seem too self-aware, his phrasing too polished, and the specifics a little too convenient to be convincing. His reaction to his sister’s rape makes him less than sympathetic, particularly since the police are never called and charges are never mentioned. The only justice Mitch will accept is vigilantism, and his justification for that borders on psychopathology. The complete story of what happened that night reveals itself in the final pages, but by that point, most readers will find the author’s abrupt, anticlimactic conclusion unrewarding.  

Starts off strong but collapses under the morally suspect musings of a dead man.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2012

ISBN: 9781478210900

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 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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