A story and a main character both in search of meaning.

LOOK AT US

A family life’s is made both richer and more complicated by the arrival of a new nanny.

Martin and Lily are a seemingly enviable couple: Each has a relatively successful career (Martin with an investment firm as a market analyst and Lily as a corporate lawyer); with the help of Lily’s family money, the two have a spacious home near New York City and live quite well; and they have young twin boys. When their longtime nanny moves to California, she seems irreplaceable until Maeve, a 20-year-old woman newly arrived from Ireland, agrees to be their live-in au pair. Maeve soon becomes integral to the family, bringing joy to the kids, order to the house, and a spark to Lily and Martin’s otherwise monotonous and hollow 8-year-old marriage. Both Martin and Lily struggle to remember how they came to each other and this moment in their lives, especially Martin, who had planned to finish his dissertation, teach economics, and marry a girl from Indiana. Yet the more Lily and Martin’s marriage and their family depend on Maeve to function, the more the couple push to endear themselves to her, including by becoming more sexually adventurous. The unlikability of the central couple is precisely the point, as the novel questions how much substance there is to their lives, yet the narrative fails to find any momentum in this question and is instead weighed down by numerous lengthy flashbacks to Martin’s and Lily’s lives prior to meeting as well as Martin’s musings during bouts of insomnia. It is clear that he has little understanding of either Lily or Maeve or much connection to them, especially in his particularly painful descriptions of their bodies, and this could easily become a novel about his midlife crisis. Sadly, none of these characters become fully realized, and neither does the impetus of the plot.

A story and a main character both in search of meaning.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-942658-91-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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

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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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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