Sometimes rabbit holes contain only rabbits.


A Dutch mother-to-be strives to vindicate her future child’s namesake.

Each chapter begins with a week-by-week countdown to the first-person narrator’s due date, which is also her deadline for finding out the truth about her “distant uncle” Frans. That narrator is Marjolijn van Heemstra herself, and this novel, van Heemstra’s second, is drawn directly from life. When she was 18, Marjolijn’s grandmother gave her Frans’ ring since he died without any descendants. In return, Marjolijn has agreed to name her firstborn son after Frans, a hero of the Dutch resistance. Years later (exactly how many is not clear), her pregnancy forces the issue; she is hormone- and conscience-driven to learn whether Frans’ name is worthy of being passed on. After the war, on Dec. 5, 1946, her uncle masterminded a bomb attack on a man named Boer, an alleged Nazi collaborator who was never punished. Frans was prosecuted and imprisoned for what, in peacetime, was a crime. Though preeclampsia threatens, Marjolijn takes furtive trips from her Amsterdam home to the National Archive in the Hague while her partner, D, is at work. The facts defy Marjolijn’s every effort to verify Frans’ heroism. Boer’s collaboration was considered de minimis—he rounded up pigeons for the Wehrmacht. The bomb, delivered in a wrapped package to Boer’s home on St. Nicholas Eve, also killed innocent bystanders, but, of this “collateral damage,” Frans remarked, “These things happen.” The supreme irony: Frans later founded a right-wing group with ties to ex-Nazis. The book is brutally honest about pregnancy, abortion, and living with ambiguity. Wry observations abound, well served by Reeder’s translation; for instance, on the archive’s proximity to a children’s book museum, van Heemstra says, “one wrong turn and you’re in the realm of fairy tales.” In view of the novel’s firm grounding in fact, one wonders why van Heemstra didn’t simply write a memoir. Perhaps because fiction accommodates any number of wrong turns. The novel ends with an existential shrug, but perhaps that’s the point.

Sometimes rabbit holes contain only rabbits.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982100-48-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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