Some wonderful writing props up a volume that fails to convey modern love’s scope or diversity.

FREEMAN'S

LOVE

The seventh volume of Freeman’s eponymous literary journal “celebrates” love, which the former Granta editor calls “the biggest and most complex emotion.”

For many readers today, love is also scarce, since, as Freeman notes in his introduction, “It’s a hard time to believe in love.” Several of these 21 works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry are indeed worth celebrating, especially short stories by Olga Tokarczuk and Gunnhild Øyehaug, whose “Apples,” which charts a woman’s changing loves via a nifty nested narrative, is the volume’s best piece. Nearly half the works eschew romance in favor of either an amorphous love, such as Louise Erdrich’s poem “Stone Love,” about a rock that has “spent a star age...Waiting for you,” or familial love, including Tommy Orange’s brief tour de force, “Guangzhou,” and Daisy Johnson’s standout short story, “The Snowman,” in which a 14-year-old crafts a muddy Christmas golem for her dying sister. “Heaven,” an enthralling excerpt from Mieko Kawakami’s forthcoming novel, captures that same childhood mystique that Johnson channels so well but buries the dread deeper. The anthology’s main shortcoming, and a puzzling one given its theme, is the near total absence of writing about LGBTQ+ love. Fully three-quarters of the volume concerns love between a cisgender man and woman. There are just two entries—totaling eight pages—about nonheterosexual relationships: Daniel Mendelsohn’s piece on how insomnia takes him places his lovers can never follow and Andrew McMillan’s spectacular poem “swan,” about grappling with his sexuality. Also conspicuous is the lack of any Black male authors, an omission exacerbated by the inclusion of stale stories from Richard Russo and Haruki Murakami, neither of whom is crafting terribly original fiction or wanting for an audience at this point in their lengthy careers.

Some wonderful writing props up a volume that fails to convey modern love’s scope or diversity.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5783-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 22

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more