A slim yet wise novel boils profound questions down to its final word: "Home."

THE REMOVED

Signs and wonders animate a Cherokee tale of family and community abiding through trauma.

Stories are “like medicine, but without the bad taste,” says Wyatt, a 12-year-old Cherokee boy in foster care who is preternaturally gifted in telling them. He spins mesmerizing, ambiguous fables about snakes and birds and an underworld, called the Darkening Land, for children at a shelter in rural Oklahoma. Wyatt, whose father is in jail and mother is in the wind, is spending a few days with Maria and Ernest Echota, the only Cherokee placement available. Fifteen years earlier, a White policeman shot and killed the couple’s middle child, Ray-Ray, outside a mall. Now Wyatt’s quirks and buoyant impersonations startle the Echotas by echoing those of Ray-Ray. More remarkably, the presence of this child appears to draw Ernest back from the fog of Alzheimer’s. Maria, her surviving son, Edgar, and daughter, Sonja, all take turns narrating. So does Tsala, a mysterious figure who declares, “We are speakers of the dead, the drifters and messengers….We are always restless, carrying the dreams of children and the elderly, the tired and sick, the poor, the wounded. The removed.” The talented Hobson conjures both the Trail of Tears and family fracturing, as he did in Where the Dead Sit Talking (2018), a finalist for the National Book Award. The traumas of forced removal and Ray-Ray’s killing twine in Maria’s depression, Edgar’s meth use, and Sonja’s drifting detachment. “I used to stare out the window, envying trees,” she says. “This became a regular pattern of thought for me...that I stared at a tree outside and envied its anonymity, its beauty and silence....A tree could stand over a hundred years and remain authentic.” Edgar, in his own Darkening Land, fights a treacherous fellow named Jackson Andrews, an evocation of Andrew Jackson. Each of the Echotas gropes toward their annual family bonfire commemorating Ray-Ray on the Cherokee National Holiday. Spare, strange, bird-haunted, and mediated by grief, the novel defies its own bleakness as its calls forth a delicate and monumental endurance.

A slim yet wise novel boils profound questions down to its final word: "Home."

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299754-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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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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