An intimate epic set in a virtual but deeply human world.

PARADISE, NEVADA

A great American novel set in the city of busted dreams.

If you’re seeking a setting for a big, bold, searching American novel, you could do a lot worse than Las Vegas. This sprawling, delightful debut book captures the artificial worlds within worlds in the casinos, the unnavigable streets just outside the strip, the big dreams, and the bad beats. It has a labor dispute, a big explosion, and an immigration saga. Most of all it has four vivid strivers at its core: Ray, a math whiz and online poker stud who loses his confidence and his nerve and tries to take on live, flesh-and-blood competition; Mary Ann, a model-turned–cocktail waitress who finds herself involved in a covert sabotage scheme against the house; Tom, who, like the author, comes from Rome and who finds himself enjoying what seems like a long spot of good luck; and Lindsay, a Latter-day Saint journalist with literary ambitions. Each character brings his or her own supporting players, many of whom aren’t what they seem. The central quartet is constantly in each other’s periphery, pushing the plot toward ever more dangerous places. The author, who spent several years as a professional poker player (both online and live), knows these people and their habitats, and he brings them to life in colorful, page-turning detail; even if you’ve been to Vegas, he makes you feel as if you’re seeing it with fresh eyes. Even when he gets a little too cute—for instance, footnoting Ray’s inside-poker jargon—there’s something around the corner to make it all worthwhile. This is a tremendously funny book, but it earns its laughs through human frailty. It makes fun of the powerful and the ridiculous, but even then there’s nothing easy. Everyone here is haphazardly seeking something better and different within themselves, and they look to find it in this virtual microcosm of America.

An intimate epic set in a virtual but deeply human world.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-620-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Bloomsbury

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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