An intellectually stimulating fiction debut.


An acclaimed African American essayist puts forth a first novel whose quirky romanticism, vivid landscapes, and digressive storytelling owe more to classic European cinema than conventional literature.

The world tends to weigh heavily on a sensitive young man with an overly restive mind. And Jonah Winters, a Black, newly minted college graduate, begins the 21st century burdened with an eclectic imagination that’s hemmed in by limited possibility. Raised in Paris, Jonah is pressing his cultivated mind into service as a public school teacher in Brooklyn. He doesn’t get too deep into the new job before anomie creeps in: “infernal contradictions between his hopeful expectations and the downward spirals of aimless and angry students.” Seeking mental relief at a Manhattan repertory movie house, Jonah runs into Octavio, a “wild Cubano” and college friend who proposes they take a trip together to Brazil, where Octavio hopes to reunite with another college friend, nicknamed “Barthes,” who’s trying to help poor children in Rio’s favelas. Jonah promises to think it over but doesn’t, really, for weeks, until one night when a retired pro basketball player rescues him from arrest for drunk and disorderly. The stranger, Nathaniel Archimbald, unloads a harsh dose of “wake-up” on Jonah that forces the young man to assess his life up to that point, which in turn compels Nathan to recall a lost love from his own life in Paris. When Jonah tells him about the prospect of heading to South America, Nathaniel hands him a sealed letter addressed to that lost love, asking him to find her. If he doesn’t, “bring the letter back to me…[so] you’ll remember that you always have a reason to come back.” So begins for Jonah an odyssey through Brazil and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere loaded with discoveries, epiphanies, and, occasionally, physical peril looming from both within and outside his small circle of fellow travelers. At times, even with McCarthy’s allusive style and illuminating observations carrying them along, readers may become unsettled by the drift and dysfunction of its protagonist. But if ever there was an example of a quest story where the quest matters more than the objective, it’s this coming-of-age novel.

An intellectually stimulating fiction debut.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61219-806-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.


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.


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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