While not always surprising, this ’60s family tale remains strikingly memorable.

SOMEONE ELSE

A debut literary novel focuses on an American teenager’s journey of self-discovery.

It is 1968 in East Lansing, Michigan, and Sally Tallman is a high school student with an odd hobby. Sally likes to inhabit the lives of other people. She will mimic her chosen target to a refined point, even telling strangers that she has someone else’s name. Sally’s peculiar passion helps her distance herself from the realities of her home life. Her father is a World War II veteran whose career as a journalist has been put on hold thanks to a vague illness. Her mother is deeply immersed in the creation of homemade clothing, paintings, and any other crafty pursuit that catches her fancy. Then there is Sally. She may be a steadfast babysitter and a whiz at Latin, but who is she really? Readers learn more about Sally as she copes with events like the suicide of a classmate and the emergence of family secrets. The Tallmans also allow a troubled girl named Beth to live with them. Beth brings her own difficulties to the table, not the least of which involve one of Sally’s neighbors, a religious man who runs a church out of his house. While it may take readers a few pages to adjust to Sally and her ambition to be other people, Hunter’s text paints an intricately detailed picture. With the Detroit Tigers in the World Series and intriguing characters, like a girl who is described as little more than “human wallpaper,” Sally’s world is an entertainingly distinct one. But some aspects can be drawn out. Sally’s long obsession with an accomplished twirler named Barbie Robert comes with the takeaway that perhaps this successful teen’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems. Although the novel ultimately delivers an obvious conclusion, the heroine’s odyssey is unforgettable, enlivened by Fanta, Jet Star 88s, and a close look at a not so distant time.

While not always surprising, this ’60s family tale remains strikingly memorable.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950730-30-8

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Unsolicited Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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

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 compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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