An often warm, if tonally inconsistent, work about finding inspiration where one least expects it.


In Broome’s debut novel, a nonreligious young woman falls for a charismatic fundamentalist.

Nikki Lowe has been a public school biology teacher in Jackson, Mississippi, for three years, but she’s looking forward to a welcome change of pace: At summer’s end, she’ll start teaching literature at a small university. Her one remaining obligation is to attend a science education seminar, and although her friends tease her that she might meet the man of her dreams there, she laughs it off: “She wasn’t on the rebound after a wrenching breakup. She was neutral, which was to say, she was happy being alone.” However, she ends up meeting a handsome, poetry-quoting man named Cory Thomas at the conference. They hit it off wonderfully during subsequent dates, even after Nikki, who’s not religious, learns that Cory is a devout Christian. “What if he asks me to go to church?” she asks herself, coming to the conclusion that she can “just go through the motions like everyone else.” Things are complicated by the fact that Nikki just recently fought a long battle at her old school with a creationist faculty member who was told that “creationism is not science. It’s faith-based, and it belongs in church, not the state-supported classroom.” One of Nikki’s friends even says that “Christianity hates knowledge. Always has.” However, she sets aside her reservations when Cory invites her to become a nature counselor at Silverbridge, a summer camp that he runs for Christian girls. Nonetheless, plenty of drama ensues.

“I suppose the best description of someone like me is secular humanist, but I don't say that with a great degree of certainty,” Nikki tells the friendly family of Silverbridge’s groundskeeper. “I reserve the right to be spiritual. I love mystery.” Broome does a fine job of providing such mystery for her, and making it believable; he also convincingly portrays the protagonist’s subtle spiritual awakenings during her brief time at Silverbridge, as she teaches a group of young girls and learns about their problems and dreams. The book’s opening feints toward a fairly simple Christian-conversion plot quickly give way to something much more intriguing, as Nikki discovers darkness at Silverbridge. Broome has a smoothly natural narrative voice and a talent for conveying characters with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of believability. Even comparatively minor players—the friend who looks after Nikki’s dog while she’s away, the live-in girlfriend of Nikki’s aunt—are effectively brought to life. Intriguingly, Cory is the only character who never quite seems to ignite, but Nikki herself is such a well-turned figure that this fact isn’t sufficient to sink the book’s latter sections. Some of what unfolds in the second half of the book, which includes shocking violence, verges on excessive melodrama; indeed, that melodrama is a large part of what makes Cory unconvincing as a character. However, the story of Nikki’s development more than compensates for this, making for a compelling reading experience.

An often warm, if tonally inconsistent, work about finding inspiration where one least expects it.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-65546-659-5

Page Count: 490

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 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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