A consistently engaging work with a well-developed main character.


A woman takes on powerful mining interests while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana in Fischer’s debut novel.

Twenty-nine-year-old civil engineer Louisa Lehmann challenges the profit-driven company West Africa Gold to redress the harmful consequences of its gold-mining operation. Her predecessor, Lynn Lubic, formed an organization known as “the Advocacy” after her research showed that WAG’s new dam was contaminating local water supplies with cyanide, arsenic trioxide, and other heavy metals. Lehmann is up against mine manager Finn Harrigan, a quintessential corporate villain with a callous attitude, a room-length desk, and a smoking habit. The strength of Fischer’s novel rests on Lehmann—a delightful, complicated character—and the keen attention that the character gives to even the most subtle observations. For example, when describing vegetation, she narrates, “In every pore swells the dank taste of afterbirth.” Here’s her take on a piece of furniture: “There is eroticism in a table. A clean, hard surface ready and waiting to support creation.” To calm herself, Lehmann often cycles through colors, textures, and patterns, but she’s most interesting in the interrogative mode, as when she wonders, “How long does it take to walk past someone who is walking toward you?” She constantly reevaluates her internal life in an honest way and digs into her familial strife, her high-achieving childhood in Bakersfield, California, and her difficult relationship to establishment feminism, wondering at one point: “With what license could the feminists discount the lives of the men with whom I worked?” Later, as she works for and alongside local Ghanaians, she experiences ecstatic encounters with the divine. When Harrigan attempts to frame her and her organization for a crime, she at last stands up to WAG in memorable style. Lehmann never quite moves past the possessive attitude that she has toward Ghana at the story’s outset (“It is ugly and it is mine”), but she otherwise mines her psyche so deeply that readers can almost forget this lack of growth.

A consistently engaging work with a well-developed main character.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9802170-7-0

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Kilometer Thirteen

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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