A visceral book that promises a major new literary voice.



In a Taiwanese immigrant family, secrets and myths are indistinguishably intertwined.

This debut novel is told from the alternating perspectives of three generations of women from the same family: Ama, the grandmother, who emigrated from Taiwan with her war-addled husband and two children, leaving three other daughters behind; Mother, who remembers both Taiwan and the Arkansas chicken farm where they arrived through the lens of poverty and struggle; and the daughter, born in this country, who serves as a link between her mother and grandmother which both would be more comfortable severing. From the beginning, the story is one of internalized violence. Agong, the family patriarch, was a soldier from the Chinese mainland, 20 years older than Ama when she married him at 18, already a widow and mother of three. In their second life in America, Agong has lost the thread of his memories and forgotten his name, the faces of his children, and the place where he buried the family gold—in spite of Ama’s best efforts to beat it out of him. Mother, in an attempt to escape Ama’s violence, has married another man from the Chinese mainland and struggles instead to shield her children from her husband’s abuse. Meanwhile, the daughter navigates both the demands of her American community to assimilate and the need of her immigrant family to preserve the cultural memories of a place she has never known. The magic of these origin myths is very much present in all their lives. When the daughter and her brother dig a series of holes in the rank soil of their backyard, the holes become mouths, open and hungry. When the daughter is beaten for this infraction by her mother—enacting a violence more typical of Ama—a tiger tail with its own vituperative will grows from one of the scabs. And when the daughter’s lover, Ben, a girl from Ningxia who could “spit a watermelon seed so far it skipped the sea and planted in another country,” gets the idea to feed the daughter's tail to one of the backyard holes, what emerges are letters from Ama that tell not only the secret at the root of her violence, but the secret at the root of all their entangled lives.

A visceral book that promises a major new literary voice.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13258-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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