Endicott’s latest novel is a quiet, elegant triumph with no easy answers.

THE VOYAGE OF THE MORNING LIGHT

Two sisters sail around the world.

It’s 1911, and after her much older half sister marries a ship’s captain, teenage Kay joins them onboard the Morning Light for a trip around the world. Their strict father has recently died, and as they travel, the sisters find themselves still haunted by his legacy: He’d run a school for Native American children in remote Canada, where scores of students apparently died from tuberculosis. Now Kay suffers from nightmares so severe she wakes up screaming. But as the trip continues, both Kay and her sister, Thea, begin to have a look around them. Kay begins studying ancient Greek with a goofy English pastor who’s joined them. Things change when Thea, who longs for a child, adopts a young boy from a poor Micronesian island. Kay is troubled by the adoption, though she can’t immediately articulate why. Endicott depicts her characters with great delicacy and sympathy. Kay, especially, is a wonder to behold: She’s barely a teenager when the novel begins, and to witness her first encounters with the world, as she quietly unravels her own feelings and beliefs about what she sees, is simply marvelous. The novel’s second half shifts in time and mood in a way that feels both surprising and exactly right. There is so much in this book to linger over, from Kay and Thea’s relationship with each other to the strength and autonomy of Kay’s mind to Endicott’s lyrical descriptions of the sea and the ship. It’s a novel to return to again and again.

Endicott’s latest novel is a quiet, elegant triumph with no easy answers.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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