Boisterous and high-spirited debut stories by a talented new writer.

WALKING ON COWRIE SHELLS

Stories about Cameroonian Americans that complicate the usual immigrant narratives.

Explosive prose and imaginative plots characterize this debut collection of 10 stories populated by zombies and mermaids, adopted girls and grown women and set in places as familiar as suburban New Jersey, as exotic as Comic-Con, and as far away as Cameroon. Nkweti’s stories offer a wonderfully immersive experience: English mingles with French mingles with pidgin mingles with American teen slang mingles with comic and anime lingo and many other specialized languages. Deliciously disorienting at times and always energizing, the style calls to mind code-switching as well as the rich polyvocality of America. This is on full display in “It Takes a Village Some Say,” about a girl adopted by an American and Cameroonian American couple, told from the perspectives first of the parents and then of the girl herself. When she finally tells her side of the story, she explains, “I give good read. Mais je suis rien commes des autres. Nothing like them. Those poor, poor telethon kids you scribble letters to and force-feed poto-poto rice for 'just ten cents a day.' Fly-haloed. Swollen tum-tums begging for your pretax dollars. You give and you give and you give again. #SaveOurKids. #BecauseYouCare. No, I am nothing like them, but I made your heartstrings twang with tabloid tales of my liberation….” Throughout, Nkweti’s mostly female protagonists challenge tradition—whether familial, cultural, or gender expectations—and often prevail. But these aren’t fairy tales, and Nkweti’s characters also face the double bind of being too African or not African enough. “For you are African, and by this culture’s definitions, unsightly,” reflects the lonely girl in “Schoolyard Cannibal,” who feels out of place among her African American classmates, while Jennifer in “Kinks” is accused of not being “African African” by her boyfriend, a “Black blogosphere sensation” and author of Unearthing Your Inner Ancestor.

Boisterous and high-spirited debut stories by a talented new writer.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64445-054-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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