An extremely memorable and winning YA tale of the perseverance dreams require.


A coming-of-age novella in which a young girl dreams of leaving India.

Kamada, the teenage narrator of Philip’s spirited, absorbing debut novel, declares: “I will be the hero of my life. I will make deliberate choices to create my own destiny and escape my mother’s dirty world.” Her mother is a high-priced prostitute, an imperious and sharp-tongued woman not above striking her daughter when displeased with her; she has nevertheless raised Kamada in comparatively luxurious comfort, in a nice house with servants to attend her. The “dirty world” here is not only the prostitute life (into which Kamada’s mother expects her to follow), but the teeming city of Bombay, which Philip captures with overflowing detail. The streets Kamada navigates are full of ordinary people “eager to rush home to cook elaborate meals for their husbands or watch the latest cricket match,” but they are also full of rickshaw wallahs, eunuch hijras and violent beggars. It’s a profusely colorful world, though it holds no charms for Kamada. A “small brown boy pours some [lemon sherbet] into two glasses for two brown men with moustaches. Brown sparrows trill on electric poles. I am a brown girl in a brown world,” she says. She dreams of leaving it all behind and going to America to study and live. “I will escape this chaos,” she vows. “I will escape these people jamming the traffic and the traffic jamming the people.” Her means of escape is the blue folder she carries everywhere, containing all the carefully assembled documents she needs to take her GED test and apply for her student visa; she also escapes via her own antic imagination, which conjures fantasy creatures everywhere, animates the fruits at vending stalls and lends voices to the city’s potholes. It’s this overlay of fantasy, always evocatively but matter-of-factly interwoven with the real-world narrative, that lends the book its greatest charm. The sheer manic detail of it all speaks eloquently of Kamada’s fever-pitch desperation for a new life, and its resolution at the book’s end is touchingly bittersweet.

An extremely memorable and winning YA tale of the perseverance dreams require.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9893159-9-9

Page Count: 154

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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


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.


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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