Original, richly felt, deftly written. Highly recommended.

APHASIA

In Ecuadorian Cárdenas' second novel—after The Revolutionaries Try Again (2016)—a once-reluctant father tries to balance family with an awareness of lost possibilities while his sister's life unravels.

Antonio Jose Jiménez immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia to fulfill his dream of an Ivy League education. Now a divorced database analyst, he lives in a small apartment connected through a purgatorial laundry room to the apartment he once shared with his wife and two young daughters. Struggling to write in his spare time, he avoids thinking about his sister or his own failed marriage by remembering former girlfriends (one of whom chose "László Krasznahorkai" for their safe word) and having sex with college students he meets on a site called Your Sugar Arrangements. He studies fathers in fiction and movies. "To learn how to be a father from a movie might sound ridiculous…but how else do men learn to be fathers different from their own monstrous fathers?—holotropic breathwork?" Divided into five sections of short chapters, the story unfolds in a fragmented, fractured style, the long, breathless sentences dizzying and richly packed with memories, connections, and literary references. Cárdenas undercuts the idea of a single, stable identity and suggests the self as a many-layered work in progress. On the YSA site, Antonio calls himself Arturo. At work, consumed by thoughts of "the other lives he could have lived if he’d left his former wife when he was planning to, three weeks before conceiving Ada," he imagines different versions of himself, including Antonio I (soccer player), Antonio VIII (writer), and Antonio V (database analyst), who "creates a spreadsheet to tabulate the other Antonios." Meanwhile Antonio's sister has a schizophrenic break brought on in part by their traumatic childhood with an abusive father. Confronted with discomfort, Antonio's brain "activates its emergency erasure mechanisms." A person, he thinks, is "an accretion of misfortunes," aphasia "a metaphor for expressive paralysis." Fans of the author's inventive, ambitious debut novel will find the same sardonic intelligence, paired here with a deep humanity. Despite erasure mechanisms and paralysis, Antonio works to be a better brother, a better parent to his girls. "Everywhere we went I saw grandmothers looking at us and marveling at a world where fathers and daughters held hands."

Original, richly felt, deftly written. Highly recommended.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-25786-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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