A searing examination of love and lust, power and control, as the narrator’s rising sense of self yearns to take the reins.

DARK HORSES

A complex portrait of sexual abuse set in the world of pre-Olympic equestrian competition.

Debut novelist Mihalic takes us inside a life of extreme privilege, equestrian “eventing”—a kind of horse-based triathlon—and sexual predation with Roan Montgomery, a feisty 15-year-old Olympian-to-be who confides her story in a cleareyed narration. From the outside, Roan’s life looks too good to be true. She’s the youngest competitor in her high-stakes equestrian world, attends a ritzy prep school, and lives on the sprawling grounds of her family’s Rosemont Farms in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, complete with an extensive staff, multiple horses, and a father-cum-trainer who’s working to make her the next Olympic gold-medal winner in their family. Look closer, though, and the cracks appear. Her mother’s an addict/alcoholic with no bandwidth to care for Roan, sleeping with the headmaster at her daughter's school. Her father, meanwhile, has been sexually abusing her for years. From the moment Roan gets to know Will Howard, one of her classmates, and feels the first tug of genuine connection, the fireworks start. Her father wants to keep Roan all to himself, and Roan craves her father’s undivided attention and the goals he’s set for her while also wanting to escape his abuse. To the author’s credit, this is no poor-little-rich-girl story. Rather, Mihalic complicates the narrative at every turn, creating a disturbing and flinty picture of what abuse, psychological control, and rage look like. The emotions Roan feels toward her father are multilayered and confusing, speaking to the gnarled nature of their relationship. When he tells her before an interview to “Just be yourself,” she knows that’s code for inhabiting the persona he’s created. Though the narrative occupies taboo terrain, it does so with great heart and thereby honors Roan’s love-hate experience in all its bewildering and inscrutable nature.

A searing examination of love and lust, power and control, as the narrator’s rising sense of self yearns to take the reins.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3384-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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