A surprising, provocative debut that holds the weight of myth.

AQUARIUM

Two young girls raised in a Deaf family must find their way after their sheltered, codependent world is shattered.

Lili and Dori Ackerman are Deaf. All their lives, they have lived in an isolation largely imposed on the family by their father; they have no interaction with hearing people, as their parents are also Deaf and choose to teach the girls at home. All the elements of their existence are controlled, planned for, regulated—not unlike the controlled climate of an aquarium, complete with visitors pressing their faces against the glass to gaze upon the exotic dwellers within. When the borders of their fortress are breached and new elements introduced into their world, the consequences have a ripple effect the Ackermans could not have foreseen. The narrative switches back and forth between perspectives as we observe Lili and Dori walking their separate paths, representing two different possibilities—counterlives, as Philip Roth would have it. Israeli poet and editor Shehori’s debut novel has the resonance of a folktale, rendered in evocative prose (for which we must also credit translator Hasak-Lowy) that lends an otherworldly quality to the story, mirroring the rarified existence of the Ackerman sisters. But ultimately, this comes at the expense of an engaging narrative, as we are kept at arm’s length from the protagonists; despite the extended glimpses into their interiority, they are more like characters in a fable than they are fully drawn, idiosyncratic people. Nevertheless, Shehori has brought into being a memorable fictional world that asks us to rethink our assumptions about family versus community, nature versus nurture, and how we relate to—and communicate with—one another.

A surprising, provocative debut that holds the weight of myth.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-3741-0592-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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