Part ghost story, part satiric horror, this gorgeously eerie book will keep you holding your breath even past the end.

THAT TIME OF YEAR

A Parisian family that summers each year in a small village learns the hard way they have overstayed their welcome in this deeply unsettling and slippery novella.

On Sept. 1, Herman embarks on a search for his wife, Rose, and their son, who had gone to the neighboring farmhouse to pick up eggs and not returned. Never having stayed past the end of August before, he is shocked by the sudden turn in the weather from sunny and temperate to cold and rainy literally overnight, a pathetic fallacy and our first introduction to the village as a character of menacing proportions, populated by disturbing residents, all of whom slide sideways around Herman’s ever increasing anxiety in charming, yet frighteningly empty, ways. When he seeks out the village’s mayor to tell him what's going on, he meets Alfred, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, who turns out to be a former Parisian who also once stayed past summer’s end. Alfred takes Herman on as a project, vowing to turn him into a local, and sets Herman on a path where he must find a way to withstand the unending gray, stormy landscape or simply melt away. As he attempts to navigate the village’s internal politics and strangely archaic rituals with Alfred’s help, he falls helplessly into its life as if tumbling down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, his urgency slowly transforming to inert apathy. When he finally learns what happened to his wife and child, he ends up with more questions than answers. Utterly compelling in tone, plot, and style, this slim, sleek story has a veneer of sly sophistication that belies the horror of malignancy within the village and Herman himself.

Part ghost story, part satiric horror, this gorgeously eerie book will keep you holding your breath even past the end.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-931883-91-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Two Lines Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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

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

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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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