A memorable chronicle about “the bitterness of exile” and the endurance of the spirit.

SILENCE IS MY MOTHER TONGUE

A headstrong young woman and her brother attempt to rebuild their lives in a refugee camp.

At the opening of Addonia’s novel, court is in session. For the refugees in a Sudanese camp for those fleeing Eritrea, trials are held in the ersatz cinema where skits are sometimes put on with cardboard figures. The accused is a young woman called Saba; her alleged crime, incest with her mute brother, Hagos. As Saba awaits her verdict, the novel takes us back in time to illuminate how so many in the community have turned on her. Stubborn, intelligent, and bold, Saba excelled at school and wanted to attend university before her life was uprooted. She also has complicated ancestry: half-Eritrean, half-Ethiopian, “half from an occupied country and the other half from the occupying....Half of her was at war with the other half.” Saba’s more traditionally masculine qualities are balanced by Hagos, who is “the girl [their] mother had always wanted,” taking care of the domestic work and taking an interest in Saba’s hair, makeup, and clothing. Unable to understand either sibling’s unorthodoxies, the growing community in the camp attempts to police their adherence to traditions. As more refugees arrive, Saba and Hagos draw increasing scrutiny until these outside forces threaten to overwhelm their seemingly unbreakable bond. Addonia’s greatest strength is the arresting image, imbued with symbolism—as when a man tears a newspaper into pieces and the crowd scatters “in different directions with broken sentences” or when a girl is sentenced to physically carry the man she allegedly seduced on her back through the camp as punishment—while the novel’s vignette structure underscores the fragmentary, hallucinatory quality of trauma and memory.

A memorable chronicle about “the bitterness of exile” and the endurance of the spirit.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64445-033-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 24

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.

WISH YOU WERE HERE

A young woman finds herself at a Covid-induced crossroads in Picoult’s latest ultratopical novel.

Sotheby’s associate Diana O'Toole, age 29, and her surgical resident boyfriend, Finn, are planning a trip to the Galapagos in March 2020. But as New York City shuts down, Finn is called to do battle against Covid-19 in his hospital’s ICU and ER, while Diana, at his urging, travels to the archipelago alone. She arrives on Isabela Island just as quarantine descends and elects to stay, though her luggage was lost, her hotel is shuttered, and her Spanish is “limited.” What follows is the meticulously researched depiction Picoult readers have come to expect, of the flora and fauna of this island and both its paradisiacal and dangerous aspects. Beautiful lagoons hide riptides, spectacular volcanic vistas conceal deep pits—and penguins bite! A hotel employee known only as Abuela gives Diana shelter at her home. Luckily, Abuela’s grandson Gabriel, a former tour guide, speaks flawless English, as does his troubled daughter, Beatriz, 14, who was attending school off-island when the pandemic forced her back home. Beatriz and Diana bond over their distant and withholding mothers: Diana’s is a world-famous photographer now consigned to a memory care facility with early-onset Alzheimer’s, while Beatriz’s ran off with a somewhat less famous photographer. Despite patchy cellphone signals and Wi-Fi, emails from Finn break through, describing, also in Picoult’s spare-no-detail starkness, the horrors of his long shifts as the virus wreaks its variegated havoc and the cases and death toll mount. Diana is venturing into romantically and literally treacherous waters when Picoult yanks this novel off life-support by resorting to a flagrantly hackneyed plot device. Somehow, though, it works, thanks again to that penchant for grounding every fictional scenario in thoroughly documented fact. Throughout, we are treated to pithy if rather self-evident thematic underscoring, e.g. “You can’t plan your life….Because then you have a plan. Not a life.”

Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984818-41-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more