A shrewd and probing volume of literary tales.

I HAVE THE ANSWER

Characters deal with personal tragedies and outsiders in this short story collection.

A man attempts to record the memories of his father before they are all lost to dementia, but as the tales begin to contradict one another, he can’t be sure what is fact and what is fiction. A woman whose husband recently left her suffers a sudden attack of agoraphobia only to be drawn into the strange fantasies of her peculiar neighbor. Some women acclimate to their lives as mothers over the course of 16 years. A stressed-out high school student wakes up one morning to discover that he’s grown a third arm: “He went to the bathroom and splashed water on his face, and that’s when he noticed the third arm. It was more like a hologram of a third arm. He could see the wall through it….As he stood looking at himself, it went straight up like a crossing guard’s arm. Then it waved.” In these 13 stories, Fordon explores the often surreal nature of suburban life, usually through the perplexing and aggravating relationships formed between family members, friends, and neighbors. The author’s prose is exact and knife-sharp, slicing to the soft center of her characters’ afflictions. In “How It Passed,” in which some friends narrate their experiences using the first-person plural, they gripe about their husbands thusly: “They are useless, we decide. Before long we are peeling them apart like string cheese with our ragged, misshapen nails.” Some tales sputter to rather easy conclusions, but each one finds a provocative tension between two or more people and burrows unflinchingly toward the heart of it. The results are stories that lay bare the messiness that lurks behind the facades people present to society. Standout pieces include “The Shorebirds and the Shaman,” in which a newly widowed woman is tricked by a friend into attending an alternative therapy seminar on Lake Erie, and “Why Did I Ever Think This Was a Good Idea,” which follows a mother wishing good riddance to her disrespectful son, about to leave for a gap year in China.

A shrewd and probing volume of literary tales.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8143-4752-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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