Lovely writing but airless and unsatisfying in the end.

THE MYSTERIES

An intense story about two young girls growing up in St. Louis during an unsettled time.

Miggy (short for Margaret Ann) Brenneman is a temperamental, unruly 7-year-old, an only child who always seems to be courting danger. Her best friend—and complete opposite—is Ellen Gallagher, who attends Catholic school and is unfailingly polite and restrained. Ellen has a new baby brother, Louie. It’s 1973: Nixon is president, the Vietnam War is winding down, and the economy is in recession. St. Louis itself has seen better days. Miggy’s father, Julian, has inherited a failing hardware store, and he and his wife, Jean, a ballet teacher, both think they were meant for better things. Meantime, Ellen’s mother, Celeste, spends too much time sleeping, ostensibly because of postpartum depression. But there’s reason to believe her malaise runs deeper. Ellen’s stepfather, William, is a good man, somewhat baffled by his wife. The narrative unfolds slowly at first; then there’s a terrible accident, which swiftly upends everything. Author Silver is probing grief and guilt here as well as the mysteries of fate and character: On two separate occasions, Jean and Julian look at Miggy, “their demanding, often unappeasable child,” and ask, “Who are you?” Sentence by sentence, Silver’s writing is graceful and observant. Yet the novel doesn’t add up to much. The author portrays the accident as a turning point. Yet the grown-ups were struggling before the catastrophe, which only seems to push them further along the road they were already traveling. Miggy and Ellen are by far the freshest, liveliest characters, but the author keeps shifting focus away from them. Some parts of the novel seem truncated—Jean and Julian’s courtship, for example—while others feel too expansive.

Lovely writing but airless and unsatisfying in the end.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-644-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

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LEGACY

Roberts sticks to formula in this romantic thriller—which should please fans and newcomers alike.

The only daughter of a woman with a wildly successful fitness company, 7-year-old Adrian Rizzo is used to traveling with her mother for videos and photo shoots, the child star of the brand. But everything changes one night when a man breaks into their house, confronts her mother for destroying his marriage, and then dies in a fall down the stairs. Adrian spends the summer with her beloved grandparents, enjoying the idyllic pace of small-town life and making some strong connections. Several years later, teenage Adrian gains the confidence to start her own business with the help of some high school misfits who become her best friends. Fast-forward a few years: Adrian’s grandmother dies in an accident followed by the death of a friend's wife. Adrian decides to move in with her grandfather and to finally make a home. As frequently happens in Roberts’ novels, Adrian's friends all end up living nearby, and they create a loyal, loving network that sees them all through marriage, birth, loss, success, and the other touchstones of maturity. In the background lurks a threat, though: For years, Adrian has been receiving disturbing letters signed only "The Poet," and they begin to arrive more frequently. Adrian’s perfect, messy, successful life—and blossoming relationship—may be in danger from this psychopath, but her friends and family will be there to support and protect her to the happiest of endings. If you're a fan of Roberts’ thrillers, the structure of this novel will bring few surprises, but the familiarity is comforting. Roberts’ strength has always been her ability to create likable, complex characters, and this crew is even more appealing than most—they are never whiny in insecurity or snobbish in success; rather, they provide unwavering support for each other’s ups and downs.

The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7293-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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