A tragicomedy that blends traditional customs and family intrigue.

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PERFECT MOTHER

In her first play, shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, Akpabio (Little Devils, 2013, etc.) crafts a modern morality tale about maternity, magic and being careful what you wish for.

Set largely in 2009, this tragicomedy centers on the Umoh family of Lagos, Nigeria, and draws on folk tales, Shakespearean tragedy, and the works of the poet and novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Businessman Aniekan and his wife, Celia, have been blessed with three daughters—but only after long years of barrenness. The play takes perhaps too much for granted in its line “We all know what childlessness means to the African woman,” but its characters’ effusive expressions of gratitude to God reinforce the primacy of parenthood. Celia, who secretly underwent a hysterectomy following a miscarriage, finally accepts that she cannot have more children, but her mother-in-law keeps pressuring her to bear a son; she hints that if Celia cannot produce an heir, Ani must take a second wife. The timing then seems suspect when Ani’s former secretary announces that he fathered her son, Ubong, eight years ago. Ani wants to adopt Ubong, but a jealous Celia employs a babalawo, a witch doctor, to prevent the boy from infiltrating the family. In the unfolding conspiracy to install Ubong or keep him out, many characters turn out to be not quite what they seem. Some monologues can seem overcomplicated, especially as Ani’s friend Gerry (jokingly referred to as “Sherlock Holmes”) sets out the scheming step by step. This leads to overlong text blocks, with stage directions and dialogue the only way of cramming in descriptions and machinations. The Nigerian names and British vocabulary may prove challenging, while accurate recording of African English means article and preposition use are inconsistent. Still, Akpabio successfully weaves in local superstitions and speech patterns. An interfering mother-in-law and a servant speaking in dialect (“Sir, Mama say she wan rest. She go eat later”) may seem like clichés, but they are two of the more amusing characters and bring to mind Adichie’s comic achievements. However, Akpabio maintains an appropriately bittersweet tone, even when a poisoning plot looks set to follow Hamlet into darker territory.

A tragicomedy that blends traditional customs and family intrigue.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2009

ISBN: 978-1847485748

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Athena Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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