A dense and surprising tale from an acclaimed Lithuanian author.


Lithuanian writer Šaltenis’ 1990 novel about a small-town pastor’s death is available in English for the first time.

On a frigid Christmas night in Lithuania at some point in the distant past, the pastor Kristijonas goes missing. When he’s located the next day, he’s lying among the animals in his own manger, nearly frozen to death; some people say that he was trying to preach the Gospel to the livestock. When the man dies a few days later, the circumstances surrounding his demise remain unclear. As a funeral is prepared, the life of Kristijonas is revealed through his past interactions with the colorful villagers who lived around him, including Karvelis, the former herdsman and current church bell ringer, who loved the pastor but fears encountering him as a ghost, as “he had, after all, sinned heavily against the late Kristijonas”—and, it’s revealed, others as well. Another villager is Lotė the Betrothed, who never married, and her son, Jonelis, whom Kristijonas once said had the makings of a bishop. There’s also Fingerless Limba, the local schoolteacher and undertaker, whose missing appendages are the cause (and result) of controversy. Through these and other characters, a loving, self-effacing portrait of rural Lithuania emerges. Šaltenis’ prose, as translated by Novickas, is formal but riotous in tone: “So then, when Mr. Kristijonas was still but a crowing baby, the plague arrived, neither sought nor summoned, and went reeling through the villages without missing a single cottage, unbending, proud, all buttoned up like a minor court official.” As the author wrote the work toward the end of the Soviet period in Lithuania, the book can be read as a reaction to that occupation—especially as, in the novel, the country faces a similar threat from Germans. For readers without a sense of Lithuanian history, however, it reads more like an off-kilter pastiche of preindustrial life. It’s a short book, and it may take the reader some time to acclimate to its peculiar rhythms, but the wide assortment of intersecting lives and disputed histories makes for an amusing puzzle.

A dense and surprising tale from an acclaimed Lithuanian author.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9966304-5-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Pica Pica Press

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2021

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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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