A powerful, thought-provoking selection of fiction from a talented author.


A collection of reflective, slice-of-life tales.

Connell, the author of Slaves to the Rhythm: A Love Story (2010), presents a diverse anthology of short stories that are simple yet affecting. In “Quiet Time,” teenage Lena navigates her life in a treatment facility following an accidental overdose; in “What’s Your Pleasure?” Russ works at a bar in Philadelphia and wrestles with a self-proclaimed prophecy that he’ll forever be a loser; Cecelia comes to terms with her closeted gay husband leaving her in “At Arm’s Length.” Some stories center on compelling everyday encounters, such as “More Than Welcome,” in which a man must go to the local health clinic after he cracks his tooth. Other pieces have their protagonists experience weighty, influential moments; for example, Vera in “Black Habits” discovers her sexual orientation and fights off a predatory nun. The stories are often dense with vivid imagery, particularly “The Creepy,” set in Cartagena, Colombia: “The humidity hung so thick in the air he could barely take a breath when he stepped onto the balcony….He could smell their perfume and peppermint gum as they click-click-clicked beneath the balcony on high heels.” The standout tale, though, is “The Tire Swing”; it’s simple and evocative as it follows an elderly man as he relearns his youthful ability to be fully present in his body and in the world. Its prose is lyrical but direct, with a shift to a second-person point of view that heightens the empathy between readers and the protagonist. Overall, Connell’s stories are insightful while maintaining a keen sense of humor. The most striking aspect of his writing is his ability to capture the beauty and intrigue in mundane elements of his characters’ lives. However, the stories often end abruptly, and a few of the endings are certain to leave readers wanting more.

A powerful, thought-provoking selection of fiction from a talented author.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-70039-765-2

Page Count: 119

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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