Thought-provoking, skillfully written, and hard to put down.


Reality and speculation merge to provide a look at Marie Curie, Nobel Prize–winning scientist, and the person she might have become if she'd made different choices.

Curie was born as Marya Sklodowska in Poland in 1867. Motherless at 10, raised by her father to yearn for education, she struggled under poverty and politics to reach for her dreams. A difficult choice leads her to Paris, where she attends the Sorbonne. She meets Pierre Curie, her husband and lab partner, the love of her life, second only to her experiments on radium, the new element she discovers. Cantor renders her story beautifully, creating a rich historical fiction that brings Curie to life by seamlessly inventing thoughts and desires to flesh out a character known mostly for her obsession with science. To read this wonderfully executed tale alone would be satisfying, but we are also treated to an imaginative thread of what might have happened had Marie remained in Poland as Marya and married Kazimierz Zorawski, the man who’d asked for her hand despite the certainty of being disowned by his wealthy family for it. The novel alternates between the parallel stories of Marie and Marya, following a determined theme: You always have a choice. Clearly these choices determine life’s outcome for the choice-maker as well as for all those who rub elbows with her. Feeling guilt over one's decisions and thinking about lost possibilities factor into Cantor’s theme, as does judging other people’s choices. Assessing Marie Curie’s actual life and the imagined one leads to a difficult question: Was one life better than the other, happier, more meaningful?

Thought-provoking, skillfully written, and hard to put down.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-296988-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


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.


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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