An engaging though overly complicated story of two people fighting to overcome their circumstances.


The paths of a man from Pakistan and a woman from Iraq—each rebelling against the restrictive ties of place, family, and religion in radically different ways—collide in the United States.

When we meet Anvar Faris in Karachi in 1995, he has never been the ideal child for his middle-class family, country, or Islam. The second son of a strict Muslim mother and a slightly more laid-back father, he would rather leave the trappings of obedience to his older brother, Aamir. Anvar grows up amid the fallout of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, but then when he's in his teens, his father moves the family to California. There, Anvar meets and falls in love with the like-minded Zuha Shah, but he loses her in college when she takes a more religious path. Meanwhile, we meet Azza as a preteen girl in Baghdad. After she loses her mother to cancer, she must keep house for her repressive father and nurse her terminally ill brother. Three years later, her father is abducted and tortured by the Americans during the Iraq War. Alone, she must make the devastating choice to leave her brother behind as she flees. When her father is released and finds her, they go to another country, where he takes his violent anger out on her. A bargain with a village man takes her and her father to the U.S. In San Francisco, she moves into Anvar’s building and the two begin, inexplicably, to sleep together. The story is well written, but the fascinating familial and religious dynamics are often too convoluted, and the relationship between Anvar and Azza never takes off because Azza is not as fully developed a character as Anvar. Her victimization defines her even when she breaks free, which makes her disappointingly one-dimensional.

An engaging though overly complicated story of two people fighting to overcome their circumstances.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54525-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

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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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


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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