Smart, funny, and bighearted.

DETRANSITION, BABY

A wonderfully original exploration of desire and the evolving shape of family.

Reese’s specialty is horrible married men—and she has carefully analyzed all the reasons why. She is, in fact, exquisitely self-aware when it comes to her self-destructive tendencies. When her ex, Ames, asks her to be a second mother to the baby his lover, Katrina, is carrying, Reese knows exactly why she doesn’t say no: She believes that motherhood will make her a real woman. Ames has issues of his own. Fatherhood is not a role he wants for himself—which is not to say that he doesn’t want to be a parent. It’s his hope that, by bringing Reese into their ménage, he might make Katrina consider other, less binary, possibilities. Set in New York and peopled with youngish professionals (and folks who are, at least, professional-adjacent), this novel has the contours of a dishy contemporary drama, and it is that. What sets it apart from similar novels are the following details: Reese is a trans woman, and, when she and Ames were together, Ames was Amy and also a trans woman. Detransitioning—returning to the gender assigned at birth after living as another gender—is a fraught subject. People who change their minds about transitioning are often held up as cautionary tales or as evidence that trans identity is a phase or a sickness, not something real. Peters, a trans woman, knows this, and, in Ames, she has created a character who does not conform to any hateful stereotype. Ames is, like every other human, complicated, and his relationship to his own body and his own gender is just one of his complexities. Reese is similarly engaging. She’s kind of a mess, but who isn’t? There’s no question that there will be much that’s new here for a lot of readers, but the insider view Peters offers never feels voyeuristic, and the author does a terrific job of communicating cultural specificity while creating universal sympathy. Trans women will be matching their experiences against Reese’s, but so will cis women—and so will anyone with an interest in the human condition.

Smart, funny, and bighearted.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13337-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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