A winningly revamped King Midas tale.

GOLD DIGGERS

Young strivers in an Indian American enclave are both boosted and undone by a gold-infused elixir.

Sathian’s debut, a refreshing tweak of the assimilation novel, is narrated by Neil, aka Neeraj, who's surrounded by high-achieving desis while growing up outside Atlanta. In high school, Neil is talented at debate, if only half interested in it; his sister, Prachi, is fixated on winning the local Miss Teen India pageant. His neighbor and friend, Anita, seems the perfect mix of beauty and brains, but her parents are separated, subjecting them to the whispered judgments of the community. The family might be outcasts, except that Anita’s mother, Anjali, has mastered the art of brewing a gold-spiked drink that supposedly helps those who consume it attain their ambitions. Anjali’s sideline is a whispered secret, and because the gold must possess something of the personality of more successful people to work, much pilfering of jewelry boxes is afoot. Just as Sathian artfully and convincingly conjures a world in which such a drink exists, she sensitively exposes how its powers backfire. A tragedy that ensues from the pursuit of the “lemonade” slingshots the novel into its second half, as both Neil and Anita are in their 20s, living in the Bay Area, and struggling with disappointments: Anita is fresh off a breakup and has just left her job at a venture capital firm, and Neil can’t make headway on his history dissertation on the Gilded Age, sidetracked by a story about an Indian man during the gold rush. Sathian’s shifts into romance- and heist-novel tropes in the late going aren’t always graceful, but she does a fine job of showing how the ladder-climbing, Ivy League–or-bust fixations of Neil and Anita’s community lead to hollow grown-up behavior. (Especially when blended with all-American go-getter–ism; Neil acquires robust Adderall and coke habits.) Sathian has a knack for page-turner prose, but the story has plenty of heft.

A winningly revamped King Midas tale.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984882-03-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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