A resonant and thoughtful novel.

WE PLAY OURSELVES

An up-and-coming dramatist deals with the fallout of her ambition.

Writer and playwright Silverman’s debut novel follows a down-on-her-luck artist as she attempts to rebuild her life and career. After 10 years of juggling menial jobs and playwriting, Cass, a 33-year-old New Yorker, gets her big break by winning the Lansing Award—a new prize for emerging playwrights with a $50,000 purse. After she wins the award, she begins to feel legitimacy within the tightknit theater community: “Like a picture coming into focus, my life had been given density and shape by success—and from this new vantage point, I could see that everything behind me had only been a blur.” But after a mortifying series of incidents leaves her ostracized in New York, Cass moves in with a friend in Los Angeles and attempts to rebuild her life. Shortly after fleeing, she meets Caroline, the charismatic filmmaker who lives next door, and the pack of eccentric teenage girls who follow her around. When the two women meet, Caroline believes Cass’ name is Cath—and Cass does not correct her. Instead, she assumes the role of Cath, whom she sees as her second chance for success—though she doesn’t fully understand the consequences at first. Caroline’s film follows the ins and outs of the girls' lives and their strange hobby: hosting a female Fight Club (which Caroline calls “a feminist reinterpretation of masculine values”). As Cass becomes closer to the film, she begins to question what she sees—and who exactly is pulling the strings (on- and off-camera). Oscillating back and forth between the past and present, Silverman explores the ways striving for acclaim upends and then reorients Cass’ life. The quiet meditations on the precariousness and ever changing nature of success, ambition, and artwork are the novel’s greatest strength.

A resonant and thoughtful novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

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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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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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