A reflective tale of growing up creative in a stifling environment and finding true love.

WALTZ IN SWING TIME

An elderly woman looks back on her childhood on a farm during the Great Depression and her later career as a dancer in Caugherty’s debut novel.

In 2006, Irene Larsen is almost 90 and living in comfort at the Golden Manor retirement community. Despite some health problems, she has a pleasant existence that includes spending time with her group of friends at the home and regular visits with her daughter, Deirdre. She’s also secretly recording her memoir on an old tape recorder, which makes up the bulk of this book. Irene grew up on a farm in a Mormon family in Paradise, Utah, and in 1932, “Wall Street and its problems…seemed as distant as a foreign land you might read about in the paper, reflect upon idly then quickly forget.” They worked tirelessly, and Irene helped with picking fruit and canning while her father and brothers tended to the wheat fields. Unfortunately, her younger brother Jeremiah was stricken with scarlet fever and died, which sent her mother into a deep depression. The price of wheat fell, and the financial situation on the farm became dire, but Irene found solace singing in school musical productions. Encouraged by a brother at Brigham Young University, Irene applied to study music there and was accepted. However, a summer gig at a Utah resort led to a relationship with a snappy young dancer, which threatened Irene’s relationship with her conservative family. Over the course of this bright novel, Caugherty manages to seamlessly transition between two wildly different decades while maintaining a fresh, youthful voice—which is essential in a book about an ambitious dreamer who struggles through hard times. Insights about farm life, the Depression, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are plentiful throughout the narrative, which is populated with many references to 1930s songs as it showcases Irene’s obvious talent. It’s a hopeful yet realistic story, and the letters that Irene receives from her future husband are a particular joy to read.

A reflective tale of growing up creative in a stifling environment and finding true love.

Pub Date: April 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68433-478-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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

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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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