Readers looking for more than freshly executed moments honoring NYC and its dwellers may be disappointed.

GHOSTS OF NEW YORK

Poignant vignettes of New York City residents ranging over time and space.

In his fourth novel, Lewis turns his lyric attention to the comings and goings of New Yorkers in various time periods. There’s Stephanie, a photographer returning from Europe to her hometown on an artist’s residency who discovers the city’s beauty when everyone is asleep; Caruso, a child overlooked by the foster care system with a singing voice to knock your head off; Benny, contemplating suicide after falling in love later in life and being destroyed by it; and Mike, Bridget, and Johnny, friends, lovers, intertwined humans in a place rife with “evidence of more cities built in the hollows of this one, each nestled inside the others.” This theme—of one reality nesting within another and people being tethered to each other, their specific neighborhoods, and the stories that preceded them—plays throughout the multiple strands, depicting the connections the characters may share with each other, but it’s only the thinnest of filaments. The novel reads like a striking literary version of the movie My Dinner With Andre, each narrator riffing on life and beauty, the joys of the city coupled with the heartbreak of human existence. Speculative elements come into play—ghosts, but also half-mechanical bunnies that pass on an especially ferocious strain of flu—as well as a broken health care system that evokes the 1980s AIDS crisis and today’s pandemic. Line by line, the writing is beautiful, crisp, and keen-eyed. The stories, alas, never add up to more than a series of compellingly rendered mosaic tiles, lacking the sharp trajectory of a short story and the slow-building resolution of a novel.

Readers looking for more than freshly executed moments honoring NYC and its dwellers may be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949199-96-3

Page Count: 300

Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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