These secrets of happiness really will make you happy, at least for a few sweet hours.


A new novel in stories from the master of the form.

Silber has her own sly and satisfying system for linked stories, plucking a character from one to helm the next, moving the narrative forward, or sideways, from that person's point of view. Her latest uses this form to explore all the ways money doesn't buy happiness and some of the things that actually do. The seven stories begin with and return to a character named Ethan, whose father—who travels a lot for his work in the garment industry—has a secret: a second family in Queens. So begins a journey based in New York, landing lightly in Chiang Mai ("so fun-loving it celebrated three different new year's"), Bangkok, Dhaka, Kathmandu, and Phnom Penh before returning to Manhattan. Along the way, the word money is used 107 times, yet Silber's storytelling is so artful, so filled with humor and aperçus and diverting asides, that its moral lessons emerge quite gently. Each character adds something to the store of "secrets." Ethan and his sister, for example, are interpreting letters from their mother, who's spending a year in Thailand and sounds pretty happy for a woman betrayed. Is she in love? No, it's not the "smug triumph" of the newly coupled: "She was happy from other things—the fabric she found at the night market, the celebration at the temple on the mountain, and the trek in the forest she and her friends did one weekend, where they saw caves and waterfalls." Bud is a taxi driver who both suffers and commits a robbery, then refuses an inheritance: "Of course, I felt rich for turning it down. You could list all the things you didn't need and feel wonderful for abandoning them." Later, he comments, "Sanity is much sexier than people tend to think." That last line echoes the great Grace Paley, to whom Silber is so close in spirit and voice. While Paley was an all–New York gal, Silber makes faraway places seem familiar—oh, for the time when we can work on knowing the world even one-tenth as well as she does.

These secrets of happiness really will make you happy, at least for a few sweet hours.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64009-445-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


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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