An exploration of extinct animals and objects told through dazzling stories that question the bounds of memory and myth.

AN INVENTORY OF LOSSES

Objects, animals, and places that no longer exist, except in our collective imagination.

Schalansky’s fifth book is a collection of beautifully constructed stories about objects that have not survived the test of time. “Being alive means experiencing loss,” Schalansky writes, and the world has experienced much loss. Animals, people, and places that once existed are now only memories due to inevitable decay, colonialism, the cleansing of records, and natural disasters. While in Schalansky’s previous book, Atlas of Remote Islands (2010), she wrote of remote havens that remain difficult to reach even with modern travel, here she depicts the animals, people, and places that are only known through what details have been recorded or remembered. From fragments of Sappho’s poems to a submerged South Pacific island, from the extinct Caspian tiger to the lost films of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Schalansky brings us to the fantastical worlds of gladiator rings in ancient Rome, the ruins of a 19th-century German palace, and the surface of the moon. Tying the stories together are Schalansky’s evocative, precise descriptions and the sense of wonder in confronting the sheer immensity of what has been lost. “The world...only grieves for what it knows,” she writes. Schalansky documents her chosen objects with utmost care while relying on myth as she moves beyond what we know for fact to what we might imagine. “For myth is the highest of all realities and...the library the true theater of world events.” Schalansky’s meticulously researched stories are poignant reminders of the extent of our impact on the natural world and a call to honor the animals, objects, and places that, due to our own negligence, have ceased to exist.

An exploration of extinct animals and objects told through dazzling stories that question the bounds of memory and myth.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2963-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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