Funny and sad and exquisitely tender.

FIGHT NIGHT

The author of Women Talking (2018) lets a 9-year-old girl have her say.

The first thing to know about this novel is that it’s narrated by a child writing to her father, who seems to have abandoned her and her pregnant mother. The novel-as-long-letter can often feel gimmicky, it’s difficult to craft a child’s voice that is both authentic and compelling, and it would not be unreasonable for readers to be wary of a book that attempts both. Readers familiar with Toews, however, may guess—correctly—that she’s quite capable of meeting the formal challenges she’s set for herself. “Mom is afraid of losing her mind and killing herself but Grandma says she’s nowhere near losing her mind and killing herself.” This is Swiv talking. “Grandpa and Auntie Momo killed themselves, and your dad is somewhere else, those things are true.” This is Swiv’s Grandma talking. “But we’re here! We are all here now.” This exchange captures the central concerns of this charming, open-hearted book. Swiv’s mother—an actor—is a bundle of angst, rage, and stifled ambition. Swiv’s grandmother, on the other hand, is the embodiment of joie de vivre, and it’s Grandma with whom Swiv spends most of her time, filling the roles of caretaker and (sometimes reluctant) accomplice. Grandma is the type of person who befriends everyone she meets and who finds the joy in even the most ridiculous and—to her granddaughter—mortifying experiences. As the novel progresses, we discover that this ebullience isn’t the natural product of a happy life but, rather, the result of a conscious decision to endure terrible loss without becoming hard. We also come to learn why Swiv’s mom is so brittle. And we understand that Grandma, in all her glorious ridiculousness, is showing Swiv that the only way to survive is to love.

Funny and sad and exquisitely tender.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-817-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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