Bold, wry, and lyrical musings.

NEVER MARRY A WRITER

A snarky and brooding collection from a veteran poet.

Akinyemi’s seventh poetry collection presents cynical and sarcastic observations about social and political life. The poems—some in free verse, others rhymed and metered—are sorted into three sections: “Writing People,” “Writing the Writer,” and “Writing the World.” The works are preoccupied with toxic, painful relationships between spouses and families, pastors and religious believers, communities and politicians—with particularly bitter words for what the poet characterizes as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s “meaningless change.” Poisonous communication styles come to the fore in the multipart titular poem, whose main characters take turns objectifying and hurting one another: Akinyemi rhymes abuse and muse and compares a partner’s sayings to spider poison. The author’s gaze sweeps across TV screens and internet browsers, condemning Instagram and the “venom” of “fake news.” He also conjures cultural environments, including scenes in Nigeria (he remembers “Grandma’s Red Soup” and the texture of garri-ijebu flour) and Great Britain, where racism simmers and an accent is “a spoiler alert…my origin wrapped / in eggshells.” Despite Akinyemi’s sardonic tones, some poems effectively give readers the sense that he’s advocating for sincerity. In one poem, two “imperfect people hunt for perfect partners” and ultimately work toward a resolution: “we laid our imperfections bare on the dinner table, / found closure and gave it another go.” At times, the poems feel self-important and overly dramatic, as when one speaker derides his “favour-hungry friends” for comparing him to writer Wole Soyinka even as he bemoans his own “untapped talent.” Still other poems expressively note that redemption can be found in prayer, “the school of life,” or the act of writing itself. One poem, for instance, asserts that writing is a cleansing act: “a writer is a laundry man— / he will wash your dirty laundry without a fuss.” Just in case, though, the speaker also preempts attacks on his own imperfections: “don’t be that bibliophile who is on the hunt for errors…let the love that beamed through these pages erase my scars.”

Bold, wry, and lyrical musings.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-913636-08-1

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Roaring Lion Newcastle Ltd

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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