A timeless and timely exploration of power, revolution, and survival.

THE PRESIDENT AND THE FROG

A former Latin American president reminisces on his remarkable life.

In Kirkus Prize finalist De Robertis’ new novel, the unnamed former president of a Latin American country is interviewed by a journalist. Inspired by the life of José Mujica, the former president of Uruguay, the novel’s 82-year-old protagonist—affectionately dubbed the “Poorest President in the World”—lives in a humble home with his wife and dogs and tends his infamous garden. As he sits down with the Norwegian interviewer, the former president finds himself drawn to her and wonders if he should share the deepest secret of his life, which he dubs “the story of the frog.” The narrative oscillates between the present-day interview (set shortly after the 2016 U.S. election) and memories of his past. A former guerrilla and revolutionary, he spent years of his life as a political prisoner in solitary confinement. Kept in a deep underground hole, the former president endured unspeakable torture and struggled to mentally persevere through the isolation. Unwilling to let the dictatorship win, he fought the urge to retreat from reality: “Every time temptation slunk toward him, he found himself rattled by and yet.” Just when he feels on the edge, a raucous frog appears in his cell begging to hear his memories (“I want stories. Want to eat your stories”). Reluctantly, the protagonist tells the frog about his past, including losing his father, learning to garden, falling in love, and organizing a revolution. In stunning, cleareyed prose, De Robertis writes beautifully about storytelling, justice, and hope amid brutality. In one particularly moving section, the protagonist tells the frog about the youth-led revolution born from a dream of justice. They wonder what their beloved country, on the verge of a dictatorship, could be if it was remade in a new image: “What if, what if, what if was the refrain of their great song.” In this slim novel, De Robertis sketches a portrait of a man who never stopped fighting for the betterment of himself, his country, and the world.

A timeless and timely exploration of power, revolution, and survival.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31841-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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