A dramatic, rewarding story about a woman reconnecting with family, nature, and herself.

THE BEST PART OF US

In Cole-Misch’s debut novel, an old land dispute reemerges after a young girl discovers Native artifacts.

Welsh immigrant Taid Llyndee purchased an island off the Canada coast from the Ojibwe people in the 1940s, establishing a family retreat there until 1990. In 2004, Beth Llyndee, Taid’s granddaughter, returns to this place, which she remembers well. Taid is still alive, but he’s drafted two wills—one granting the land to Beth, and the other to the Akeenes, an Ojibwe family, and Beth is to decide who gets it. The next chapter unfolds in 1987, when Beth is 11; she has a teenage brother, Dylan, and sister, Maegan. Her mother is wary of Maegan’s boyfriend; Beth’s father is the family peacemaker; and her grandparents are set in their Welsh traditions. The girl feels at home on the island, where she cares for a one-legged seagull and enjoys viewing her “favorite constellations.” The following summer, she discovers unusual wooden bowls on the island. Dylan suggests showing them to a nearby Ojibwe family, but Taid recalls the aftermath of a similar discovery: “Just because they [another family, the McGintys] found a few silly relics, the family had to give up five acres of their land to keep the community peace.” The Llyndees decide to research the items privately, but in 1990, chaos erupts as Maegan is injured, Dylan goes missing, and the family is evicted from the island. In 2004, Beth is unprepared for what lies ahead. The slow pace of this novel, which effectively offers readers a cautionary tale against secrecy, makes its twists even more rewarding. Cole-Misch manages to capture tender moments as skillfully as she does petty arguments between the siblings. Young Beth is shown to have all the characteristics that one expects of a family’s youngest child—sometimes excluded and often whining, but also the family favorite. The novel is informed by both Ojibwe and Welsh traditions and shows sensitivity regarding cultural differences. It also honors the natural world with dazzling imagery: “So many stars, as if the galaxies were holding a grand, illicit celebration after they thought the humans had gone to bed.”

A dramatic, rewarding story about a woman reconnecting with family, nature, and herself.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-741-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 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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