Brilliantly researched, imaginative cross-genre historical fiction.



A part fantastical ghost story, part romance focuses on Modigliani’s lover.

Paris, 1920: Italian painter Modigliani dies of consumption. Two days later, Jeanne Hébuterne, artist, model, and common-law wife of Modi, throws herself out the window of her parents’ home. Jeanne dies, but her spirit survives. Tethered to her body by an ethereal umbilical cord, she is prepared for burial in the artist studio she shared with Modi. As a ghost, no one hears her while she rails that the studio has been ransacked and Modi’s paintings have vanished. Her brother, André, collects her work but doesn’t find the piece she had not yet finished, the painting she was going to give Modi had he recovered. Modi had started a picture of her and their baby daughter but abandoned it. Jeanne took up the painting and added Modi’s figure but did not complete it before they both died. After her burial, Jeanne is no longer tied to her body and must navigate the afterlife, searching for Modi. Lappin’s striking afterlife creates a compelling secondary realm to the superbly researched, fleshed-out historical world in and around Paris. What could easily have been a biographical novel—one that ended with Jeanne’s death—is instead a far more intricate tale. The time periods include Paris, 1920; Vichy France under Nazi rule, 1941; and then another layer: 1981, when an art historian uncovers Jeanne’s work and journals. In this blend of world events, art history, and ghost story, one of the author’s greatest strengths is her worldbuilding. Death, from the very first page, is fully realized. The umbilical cord that initially connects Jeanne to her corpse is as “clear and stretchy as a jellyfish tentacle, and a bit sticky, like old egg whites. It shimmered like mother of pearl.” There are rules and a detailed bureaucracy in the world of the dead. One must have money to catch a train; the train has compartments based on class; and Jeanne must inquire about Modi’s whereabouts with the bureau, which is divided according to one’s religion. The book’s inventive afterlife is as vividly drawn as the streets of Paris.

Brilliantly researched, imaginative cross-genre historical fiction.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947175-30-3

Page Count: 263

Publisher: Serving House Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


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.


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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