Outstanding poetic musings that strike at the very core of human connections and contradictions.

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CATWALK

A collection of verse explores the strange contours of modern existence.

This impressive volume presents 79 poems in a wide variety of metrical and spatial forms. Natchez begins with a sense of urgency in “Looseplex: Rescue Mission,” in which a sudden trip to New York City signals trouble ahead. The poem features effective assonance and arresting imagery (“Grief flings its implacable lasso / Off the edge of the world where you will be lost”) before abruptly ending midthought. Later, the author juxtaposes two poems, both named “Full Circle, A Diptych,” that turn out to be hinged, mirror images of each other. The seemingly simple act of flipping them, with lines structured in reverse order, thus creates different perceptions. In “Dawn,” she employs line breaks to slippery effect, investing an everyday occurrence with additional meanings: “The newspaper waits / at the curb / the morning / fears still unwrapped.” Is “morning fears” adjective/noun or noun/verb? And what remains unwrapped: the newspaper, the morning, or both? One presence occupying a large space throughout the entire book belongs to Natchez’s husband of over 40 years. “Two-step, Starting with a Grapefruit” represents the give-and-take nature of their relationship while “Why size has almost nothing to do with it” extols the seductive virtues of voluntarily washing the dishes after a party. Another salient feature of this collection centers on what the author calls “prose poems.” The traditionally punctuated “Why I have a soft spot for bad TV” reads like a microstory and offers a glimpse of her childhood, particularly her relationship with her father, whereas the completely unpunctuated “Being here now” suggests the rush of thoughts while one suffers in traffic. Odes to flatulence and endless chores appear alongside meditations on life and death, harmony and dissonance. “Corporate Ode” gently chides readers for their volatile relationships with consumerism and technology. Although these poems are relatively short, with none extending past two pages, readers will most likely need to pause multiple times and process the flood of associations that Natchez provokes with her masterful control of content and form.

Outstanding poetic musings that strike at the very core of human connections and contradictions.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-64422-6

Page Count: 99

Publisher: Longship Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

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.

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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