A prescient, sometimes-lyrical book about memory, genealogy, and destiny.

HEART WOOD

FOUR WOMEN, FOR THE EARTH, FOR THE FUTURE

DicKard’s debut novel tells the story of multiple generations of female activists, environmentalists, and community organizers.

The author chronicles the lives of Eliza, who comes of age in the 1800s; Harmony, who lives in the present day; and Amisha, whose narrative begins in 2075. Eliza is the matriarch of the family and the owner of a special desk made of an oak’s “heart wood.” The desk imbues its owners with a love of the land and a calling to protect the Earth from ecological destruction. Harmony, the only character’s voice rendered in first person, witnesses firsthand the rapid environmental destruction caused by corporate manipulation and greed. She refuses to sell, or even leave, her homestead in Luna Valley, Northern California, as many of her neighbors have, and she commits to growing her own food and working with local environmental activists to offset a seemingly inevitable disaster. Decades later, Amisha will find her way back to this homestead in an effort to try to reconnect to the Earth. The desk inexplicably “call[s]” her back to her family’s property, where she pores through Harmony’s journals and communes with nature. She heeds Eliza’s warning from almost 200 years ago: “If we don’t make protecting our earth the heart of everything we do…then everything else we do will be in vain.” Over the course of this book, DicKard deftly oscillates among three time periods, which keeps the narrative moving forward at a brisk pace. Although the book can be polemical in tone, the author peppers her prose with lyricism; for example, like the women before her, Amisha finds solace in the forest’s “silence…like soft moss” or the scent of tomato: “old and earthy, touched with a tinge of long ago.” Striking metaphors (“Night closed its blanket of darkness”) paint a vivid portrait of the world and ominously show what could become of it if people don’t take the necessary steps to save it. Occasional moments, as when Harmony humorously calls email an “electronic phone tree,” provide a necessary levity in an otherwise sobering story.

A prescient, sometimes-lyrical book about memory, genealogy, and destiny.

Pub Date: March 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73453-640-9

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Sierra Muses Press

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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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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