A hypnotizing, bleak account of the ways people trap themselves in their own minds.



In this spare novel, a young woman copes with the yawning emptiness of her life by having an affair.

By the time the narrator, referred to only as “we,” meets David in a bar, she has already lost her job in medical dictation and, faced with the prospect of coming to terms with her own life, is now fixated on killing herself. Her life is one of complete isolation—she has no friends and lives alone in the house she inherited from the grandparents who raised her, severely devout Christians whose constant judgment of her during her childhood replays in her head ceaselessly. “You can’t go alone, the grandmother says.…You can’t leave the house like that. What will people think. They’ll find your body in the lake. You need a man to take you/show you/protect you/tell you how to be.” Just as inescapable is the clutter they left behind, which forms the fabric of the narrator’s existence as she spends her days lying listlessly in bed or on the floor: the “glittering linoleum, the puzzles with missing pieces and bars of old soap, the rusted razors dropped into the wall behind the medicine cabinet and decades of dust woven into the thinning thread of the curtains.” When she and David begin having sex—his wife, Lara, is away visiting her sick mother—he moves in and out of the woman’s house freely and without warning, and she longs to be truly known by him even as she acts detached. Ryckman writes with cool, tightly packed precision on the futile ways people try to fill the emptiness and absence of life with objects and religion and desperate acts. Her rendering of the dynamics of an affair, which is so often an attempt to escape oneself, is especially keen: “Each time David comes, the guilt shrinks so that the noose of shame which ties us together diminishes into habit. As the guilt diminishes so does the pleasure. And with the pleasure our worth.”

A hypnotizing, bleak account of the ways people trap themselves in their own minds.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64605-025-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Deep Vellum

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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