An indelible story of loving yourself in a world of dreadful realities.

CONSTELLATIONS OF SCARS

In this novel, a sheltered young woman harboring a striking condition discovers the outside world may be as harsh as her repressive mother claims.

Amelia Weaver believes the pearls agonizingly coming out of her upper arms and back are a monthly sickness. But her mother sees it as a benefit, making good money by routinely selling the pearls. She keeps her daughter at home for years, asserting that people will lock Amelia up if they know what she can do. Her mother ensures Amelia stays put by confining her to the attic when she’s away. At age 21, Amelia absconds from her Roseburg, Oregon, home and heads to Portland, where she quickly has to deal with a lack of both money and shelter. Luckily, she finds a buyer for her pearls—a soon-to-open museum of “human oddities,” such as Gabriel, whose entire body is covered in hair. This small museum community becomes like a family, and Amelia lives on her own with an apartment and a job. But a condition such as hers isn’t one she’ll be able to keep secret for long. And she will come to the unfortunate realization that people just as cruel and selfish as her mother are never far away. Ousley’s thematically rich tale packs a few punches. For example, the protagonist’s “harvest” of pearls corresponds with her menstrual cycle, and Gabriel endures mistreatment for a condition he, unlike Amelia, can’t easily conceal. Characters are sublime, as the ones whom some call “freaks” are dynamic and tenderhearted while the rest of humanity includes a mugger and worse. The author gracefully describes disturbing scenes, such as Amelia’s harvests, making these painful, bloody experiences palpable without graphic details. Amelia muses about the terrible effects of these incidents: “After that first year of harvesting pearls, my skin had constellations of scars. I avoided mirrors. The one comfort to my isolation was no one could see my monstrous skin.” The moving novel has its share of positivity as well, especially Amelia’s making friends for the first time in a long while. Though the latter half of the book takes a surprisingly drastic turn, it’s befitting, as is the potent ending.

An indelible story of loving yourself in a world of dreadful realities. (acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: June 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953238-23-8

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Midnight Tide Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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