A captivating story of a strong African American woman who pursues her dreams.

CHILD BRIDE

In 1950s Louisiana, an African American teenager must leave childhood and her ambitions behind when she marries an older man in this coming-of-age novel about the black diaspora, resilience, and courage.

Until the age of 16, Nell Jones’ home is a ramshackle house on “one of many small hog and pecan farms owned and worked by the descendants of sharecroppers and former slaves.” There, her mother teaches her how to cook, her father shows her how to use a pocket knife to peel an apple in one long spiral strip, and her oldest brother, Robert, tells her how to find the North Star in the night sky. Most of all, Nell loves school, where Miss Parker, a teacher, nurtures her naturally inquisitive nature and her passion for reading. Cocooned in the love of her family and her small community, Nell knows little of the outside world, but she later realizes, “for black southerners racism lived in the air we breathed.” Nell is still an innocent teen when Henry Bight comes to claim her as his bride and take her north to Boston. There, her dreams of becoming a teacher quickly evaporate in the face of Henry’s possessiveness and insistence that she have as many babies as possible. A few years later, Nell is the mother of three young children, a lonely and unfulfilled woman tied to an angry and controlling man. But she does possess an inner strength and stubbornness that will not allow her to simply abandon her dreams. Turner’s warm and personal narrative brings to life the vigor and interdependence of black communities in both the South and the North of the mid-20th century. Nell is an appealing, penetrating, and spirited protagonist whose struggles are relatable to all readers, but much of the power of her story lies in the fact that it is grounded in African American society. White characters make an occasional appearance, but the tale is centered on the black experience. It is disappointing that Nell’s eventual fate seems to rely heavily on the trappings of class privilege, but the book as a whole is uplifting and dynamic.

A captivating story of a strong African American woman who pursues her dreams.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-038-7

Page Count: 209

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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