A strong, stirring generational tale about a Russian family’s travails.

FORGET RUSSIA

A second-generation Russian Jew travels to Moscow for a semester abroad in 1980 looking for answers about her family history in this novel.

Anna, a college student, knows very little family lore. She was told that her great-grandmother Zlata was raped and killed during the Russian Revolution. Later, Anna’s grandparents, who met and married in America, willingly returned to Russia with their little girls—Anna’s mother and her younger sister—then fled back to the United States. The book’s narration alternates among time periods: the protagonist in the 1980s; her great-grandmother and Zlata’s daughter, Sarah, in 1917; and Anna’s grandparents’ sojourn in Russia in the early 20th century. Sometime after Zlata’s death, Sarah reluctantly went to America at her uncle’s behest (her father had gone there years before and started a new family). Sarah married Leon Vitsky, they had two daughters, and during the Depression that shook their faith in capitalism, off they went to Russia. In the present, Anna falls in love with young Iosif Belonsky, whose great-uncle Victor, by an uncanny coincidence, was a longtime friend of Leon’s. It was Victor who urged Leon to return to Russia and do his part in building the new and glorious Communist state. During her semester in Moscow, Anna discovers details about her family that will change her life. The book’s dedication suggests that the novel is close to Bordetsky-Williams’ family history. She is an experienced writer, and that shows in the craft and the passion behind this story. Especially moving and painful is the faith that Victor, a true believer, places in the new regime. He paints a picture for Leon of a Communist paradise when in fact conditions are worse there than in developing countries. Sarah is appalled, and Leon finally breaks free of Victor’s spell. But Victor believes in the dream even as he faces Stalin’s firing squad. The fatal consequences of idealism have never been clearer. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” has never been demonstrated more tragically. But readers get a vivid picture of ordinary Russians as warmhearted, giving people, making their plight all the more poignant.

A strong, stirring generational tale about a Russian family’s travails.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73284-804-7

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Tailwinds Press Enterprises LLC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

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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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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