It’s rich territory, if not entirely mined.

SELF CARE

Tensions grow between the co-founders of a hot, womencentric startup in this hyper-timely—and unexpectedly heartfelt—satire of #girlboss culture and the wellness industrial complex.

Maren and Devin are the co-founders of Richual, a social network for women. In addition to tracking your self-care habits—minutes meditated, REM sleep slept, water consumed—it was, Maren explains, the “digital sanctuary where you went to unload your pain,” mostly in the form of yoga selfies. In the unofficial org chart of Richual, it is Maren’s job to be competent and Devin’s job to be rich, charismatic, and thin. "More than work wives," Maren muses, "Devin and I were sisters." And the company is a perfect mashup of their comparative ideologies, Maren’s commitment to global social justice paired with Devin’s passion for self-care. But as the company comes under a series of extremely 2020 stresses—the novel opens with a PR disaster brought on by one of Maren’s ill-conceived tweets and culminates in a distinctly #MeToo–era crisis—their visions of what a feminist company can and should be become increasingly incompatible. Richual is a stand-in for any number of real women-led companies that sell female empowerment as an affordable luxury, and Stein sets up both the dream and the failings of this breed of corporate feminism with admirable nuance. But the book is smarter than its characters, who are exactly who you expect them to be, right down to the details meant to complicate them. This hardly takes away from the fun of the novel, which is compulsively readable, occasionally brilliant (a Vogue slideshow about their office is titled “Workplace as Vulva—And Why Not?”), and studded with genuine insight into the relationship between modern wellness and dormant rage. But the book—which leans heavily on references in lieu of precise observations—is ultimately too broad to have much bite.

It’s rich territory, if not entirely mined.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313519-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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