Tenderly observant and rewarding poetry.

SAFE AS LIGHTNING

POEMS

This debut collection of poetry offers an amble through life and nature.

“There is nothing tidy about this volume,” writes Parker in his opening letter to readers. Yet even though the poems are not ordered by “history, subject matter, literary form, or style,” there is a satisfying sense of cohesion to the collection. The author approaches a broad range of subjects, from nature and religion to families and food—he even writes his own obituary—but the poems remain united by Parker’s sedately measured narrative voice. In a coming-of-age poem entitled “Conversion,” he describes his father, a Vermont farmer who became a minister, “in the confidence of his black robe / pouring the unction of his words / over the congregation.” The author’s smooth-edged observations serve similarly as a balm, soothing the painful questions of existence. In “No Doubt,” he writes a maxim for life that epitomizes his poetic worldview: “This is my present: to be in love with everything, and more / with lovely things that will be quickly spent; / still more, because the loss is permanent.” Parker’s sense of peace and determination to savor life are contagious. His poetry takes joy in the overlooked details of flora. In “Leeks,” he first provides the gardener’s perspective of watching the vegetables grow, noting whimsically: “The leaves become their /stockings underground. / By fall the stems are layers / of thin socks tugged up on / each other—no feet at all.” That is followed pleasingly by the viewpoint of the cook: “I will / have thick soup before / December’s iron freeze.” The poem is sensuous and transporting—leading readers to the vegetable patch and later placing the steaming potage before them. Throughout the volume, the poet’s use of simile is exquisitely pictorial and refreshingly innovative: “My words bounced / like butterflies off a rhinoceros.” But there are occasional falters toward cliché: “The high narrow wheels rode through like Jesus / walking on the water.” While several illustrations by Tyrol do not greatly inform or improve the reading experience, this is nonetheless an enchanting collection.

Tenderly observant and rewarding poetry.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-57869-031-2

Page Count: 134

Publisher: Rootstock Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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