Not bad as social commentary. Not that great as a story.

FAKE ACCOUNTS

A mordant take on postmodern mores.

Late one night, while her boyfriend sleeps, an unnamed protagonist goes snooping through his phone. She finds no evidence that Felix has been cheating on her, but she didn’t really suspect he was, and she wouldn't have cared much if he had been. Indeed, most of what she finds is utterly anodyne—until she discovers his anonymous Instagram account. Scrolling through screen after screen of conspiracy-theory memes, she discovers that Felix has instantly become a mystery to her. She also realizes that she should definitely dump him, which she’d been thinking about doing anyway. While she’s considering the most satisfying way to do this, circumstances rob her of the opportunity and send her into a bit of an existential crisis. This results in her quitting her job as a blogger and moving from Manhattan to Berlin. One way to describe this book is as a smart, often funny critique of a culture that rewards people for turning themselves into brands and encourages the incessant consumption and creation of content—and it is that. But it’s also a novel in which the reader is stuck inside the head of one very self-absorbed woman carefully analyzing the minutiae of weeks spent endlessly crafting new personae for dating apps and trying them out on the men who respond. One’s ability to appreciate this novel will depend entirely on one’s interest in spending a whole lot of time with its narrator. Her sharpness and seeming self-awareness are engaging at first. After explaining that she finds it unappealing to abandon all reason upon falling in love, she adds, “I believe it hurts the feminist cause. And, worse, makes me look personally bad.” Eventually, though, it becomes clear that her self-awareness doesn’t make her honest; it just makes her better at presenting a curated version of herself.

Not bad as social commentary. Not that great as a story.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948226-92-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

HORSE

A long-lost painting sets in motion a plot intertwining the odyssey of a famed 19th-century thoroughbred and his trainer with the 21st-century rediscovery of the horse’s portrait.

In 2019, Nigerian American Georgetown graduate student Theo plucks a dingy canvas from a neighbor’s trash and gets an assignment from Smithsonian magazine to write about it. That puts him in touch with Jess, the Smithsonian’s “expert in skulls and bones,” who happens to be examining the same horse's skeleton, which is in the museum's collection. (Theo and Jess first meet when she sees him unlocking an expensive bike identical to hers and implies he’s trying to steal it—before he points hers out further down the same rack.) The horse is Lexington, “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history,” nurtured and trained from birth by Jarret, an enslaved man who negotiates with this extraordinary horse the treacherous political and racial landscape of Kentucky before and during the Civil War. Brooks, a White writer, risks criticism for appropriation by telling portions of these alternating storylines from Jarret’s and Theo’s points of view in addition to those of Jess and several other White characters. She demonstrates imaginative empathy with both men and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness, as when Theo takes Jess’ clumsy apology—“I was traumatized by my appalling behavior”—and thinks, “Typical….He’d been accused, yet she was traumatized.” Jarret is similarly but much more covertly irked by well-meaning White people patronizing him; Brooks skillfully uses their paired stories to demonstrate how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable when a Union officer angrily describes his Confederate prisoners as “lost to a narrative untethered to anything he recognized as true.…Their fabulous notions of what evils the Federal government intended for them should their cause fail…was ingrained so deep, beyond the reach of reasonable dialogue or evidence.” The 21st-century chapters’ shocking denouement drives home Brooks’ point that too much remains the same for Black people in America, a grim conclusion only slightly mitigated by a happier ending for Jarret.

Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-39-956296-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 36

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more