Written in lyrical and propulsive prose, a searing debut.

OPEN WATER

A riveting love story that celebrates the cultural significance of Black artists and examines the ways systemic racism figures into every aspect of the lives of young Black men.

A photographer in his early 20s meets his friend Samuel for drinks at a pub in southeast London and finds himself instantly attracted to Samuel’s girlfriend, a dancer and university student. These two unnamed figures—the book employs an unusual second-person narration, addressing the photographer as "you"—find their lives entangled almost immediately. Both know what it means to be young and Black in London, having won scholarships to attend elite private schools where they felt constantly out of place and now attempting to navigate artistic paths. The relationship becomes increasingly intimate as a jealous Samuel breaks up with the young woman, and the unnamed two collaborate on a photography project, capturing portraits of Black Londoners. Though they dance around the question of love, they find themselves spending days on end with each other, and he begins to spend more and more nights at the flat she shares with her mother, at first on the couch and eventually in her bed. As the two negotiate what it means to turn a strong and invaluable friendship into a relationship, he finds himself unable to articulate his fears and traumas to her, withdrawing in order to process memories of racial violence and police brutality, either witnessed or experienced firsthand. Black art becomes both balm and mirror for the photographer as he by turns hides from and wrestles with questions that may determine the course of his relationship: How can you find sanctuary in love when systemic forces seem determinedly against you? And how do you express vulnerability and fear when you are socialized to bottle up your emotions, to present a mask of strength?

Written in lyrical and propulsive prose, a searing debut.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5794-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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