A hilarious dark comedy that explores the nature of friendship through the lens of sexual licentiousness.


Two roommates—an attorney and a professor—share a young woman sexually, a sordid arrangement that turns dangerous in this novel.

Stanley Berman and Thomas McClellan both work at North Carolina University—the former as its head attorney and the latter as a professor of creative writing in the English department. They’re also roommates joined by a profound but lighthearted sense of camaraderie—they spend their days drinking fine wine, playing chess, and gamely arguing “like an old married couple.” Both are romantically unattached—in fact, Stanley is twice divorced, and Thomas thrice. Sexually frustrated, Thomas concocts a peculiar plan, a way to consummate their friendship heterosexually, not platonically. He’ll find them a “go-between,” a young woman they can both bed and, by some incestuous transitivity, sleep “with each other through her.” Ideally, she would move in and keep house, too. Astonishingly, Thomas finds someone: Victoria Templeton, a beautiful, vivacious young woman who aspires to be a “lady writer.” She audits Thomas’ writing class and quickly becomes embroiled in a bizarre sex triangle with the two men, the increasingly inventive choreography of which is amusingly described by Goldstein (The Swami Deheftner, 2013). But their arrangement starts to sour when the two friends both tire of her quirks and then become frightened by her domineering narcissism. She compels them to wear “chastity devices” to prevent them from masturbating. Deciding she’s “deranged,” they plot to get rid of her but anxiously worry how she’ll respond, especially after she issues a thinly veiled threat: “If people found out that a tenured professor and the university counsel were doing this kind of threesome with a young woman, don’t you think they’d find it inappropriate?” The author’s humor is as deliciously subversive as Thomas considers himself to be—raunchily funny and psychologically daring. In addition, the relationship between the two protagonists—despite the boundaries it luridly transgresses—is brilliantly wholesome, even touching. Each paragraph of the story is as unpredictably peculiar as the next—the plot is a tantalizingly original puzzle, dramatically gripping, erotically electric, and satisfyingly weird.

A hilarious dark comedy that explores the nature of friendship through the lens of sexual licentiousness.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-026-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: May 22, 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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A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

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Eight people become unlikely friends during a hostage situation created by an inept bank robber.

In a town in Sweden, a desperate parent turns to bank robbery to help pay the rent. Unfortunately, the target turns out to be a cashless bank, which means that no robbery can take place. In an attempt to flee the police, the would-be perpetrator runs into a nearby apartment building and interrupts an open house, causing the would-be buyers to assume they're being held hostage. After the situation has ended with an absent bank robber and blood on the carpet, a father-and-son police pair work through maddening interviews with the witnesses: the ridiculous realtor; an older couple who renovates and sells apartments in an effort to stay busy; a bickering young couple expecting their first child; a well-off woman interested only in the view from the balcony of a significant bridge in her life; an elderly woman missing her husband as New Year’s Eve approaches; and, absurdly, an actor dressed as a rabbit hired to disrupt the showing and drive down the apartment price. Backman’s latest novel focuses on how a shared event can change the course of multiple people’s lives even in times of deep and ongoing anxiousness. The observer/narrator is winding and given to tangents and, in early moments, might distract a bit too much from the strongly drawn characters. But the story gains energy and sureness as it develops, resulting in moments of insight and connection between its numerous amiable characters.

A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6083-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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