A visceral book that promises a major new literary voice.

BESTIARY

In a Taiwanese immigrant family, secrets and myths are indistinguishably intertwined.

This debut novel is told from the alternating perspectives of three generations of women from the same family: Ama, the grandmother, who emigrated from Taiwan with her war-addled husband and two children, leaving three other daughters behind; Mother, who remembers both Taiwan and the Arkansas chicken farm where they arrived through the lens of poverty and struggle; and the daughter, born in this country, who serves as a link between her mother and grandmother which both would be more comfortable severing. From the beginning, the story is one of internalized violence. Agong, the family patriarch, was a soldier from the Chinese mainland, 20 years older than Ama when she married him at 18, already a widow and mother of three. In their second life in America, Agong has lost the thread of his memories and forgotten his name, the faces of his children, and the place where he buried the family gold—in spite of Ama’s best efforts to beat it out of him. Mother, in an attempt to escape Ama’s violence, has married another man from the Chinese mainland and struggles instead to shield her children from her husband’s abuse. Meanwhile, the daughter navigates both the demands of her American community to assimilate and the need of her immigrant family to preserve the cultural memories of a place she has never known. The magic of these origin myths is very much present in all their lives. When the daughter and her brother dig a series of holes in the rank soil of their backyard, the holes become mouths, open and hungry. When the daughter is beaten for this infraction by her mother—enacting a violence more typical of Ama—a tiger tail with its own vituperative will grows from one of the scabs. And when the daughter’s lover, Ben, a girl from Ningxia who could “spit a watermelon seed so far it skipped the sea and planted in another country,” gets the idea to feed the daughter's tail to one of the backyard holes, what emerges are letters from Ama that tell not only the secret at the root of her violence, but the secret at the root of all their entangled lives.

A visceral book that promises a major new literary voice.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13258-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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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: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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