Overstuffed, at times rambling, but colorful and highly enjoyable and pulled together by an engaging narrator.

FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS

French bestseller Perrin makes her English-language debut in an atmospheric novel rife with adulterous romances, bad marriages, mysterious deaths, and lots of burials.

The frequent burials are because narrator Violette Toussaint is a cemetery keeper at the Brancion-en-Chalon cemetery in Burgundy. She arrived there some 20 years ago with no-good husband Philippe, a philanderer and spoiled mama’s boy who did her a favor by disappearing shortly after they took up the post. Except Philippe turns out to be living 100 kilometers away with another woman, she learns from Julien Seul, a handsome detective who came to the cemetery because his recently deceased mother, Irène, had inexplicably decreed that her ashes be placed on the grave of a man buried there who was, needless to say, not her husband. At first, Perrin unspools her plot in a leisurely manner, intertwining Violette’s recollections of her trying marriage, the records she keeps of what was done and said at individual gravesides (touching testimonies to the infinite varieties of loss and grief), and amusing portraits of the eccentric cemetery staff. Once Julien enters to disrupt Violette’s neatly ordered world, the author augments an already busy narrative with plot strands concerning Irène’s decadeslong affair, the growing attraction between her son and the cemetery keeper, the tragic story of the Toussaints’ daughter, and a chorus of new voices that soften our view of the not-quite-as-rotten-as-he-seemed Philippe. It’s a lot for one book, and the novel does sometimes falter under its own weight, but Perrin’s eye is so compassionate, her characters so many-faceted, and the various mysteries she poses so intriguing that most readers will happily go along for the long ride toward a pleasingly romantic conclusion tempered by one last funeral.

Overstuffed, at times rambling, but colorful and highly enjoyable and pulled together by an engaging narrator.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60945-595-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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An intriguing meditation on the meaning of “meant to be.”

MEANT TO BE

Giffin’s latest charts the course of true love between an American aristocrat and a troubled fashionista.

Almost immediately, readers will guess that Giffin’s protagonist, Joseph S. Kingsley III, a media darling since birth, is a re-creation of John F. Kennedy Jr. In addition to Joe’s darkly handsome good looks, there are many other similarities, such as his double failure of the New York bar exam and his stint as a Manhattan assistant district attorney. But Joe’s late father was an astronaut, not the president, and locations associated with the Kennedys, such as Hyannis Port and Martha’s Vineyard, have been moved to the Hamptons and Annapolis. Instead of a sister, Joe has a protective female best friend, Berry Wainwright. Readers may be so obsessed with teasing out fact from fiction, and wondering if the outcome for Joe is going to be as tragic as JFK Jr.’s fatal 1999 flight, that they may be distracted from the engaging story of Joe’s co-protagonist, Cate Cooper, who is—apart from a superficial resemblance to Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy—largely a fictional creation. When Joe and Cate meet-cute on a Hamptons beach where Cate, a model, is posing, both are immediately smitten. However, the paparazzi are determined to milk every ounce of scandal from the social chasm separating them. On the surface, Cate is the product of a middle-class upbringing in Montclair, New Jersey, but her interrupted education and her forced flight from an abusive home have shamed as well as strengthened her. Like her real-life counterpart, Cate rises in the fashion industry and becomes known for her minimalist style. The couple’s courtship drags a bit on the page despite witty banter and steamy encounters. It is the conflict brewing when their pedigrees clash, and, particularly, Cate’s consciousness of the disparity, that grips us. Whether these knockoffs can avoid the fates of the originals is the main source of suspense here.

An intriguing meditation on the meaning of “meant to be.”

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-425-28664-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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