An enthralling dystopian drama that makes complex points about parenting with depth and feeling.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS

Current ideas about parenting are held up to scrutiny in a dark satire that's also a dramatic women-in-prison story.

"There are seventeen women tonight, including Frida. In one lit corner, they sit on cold metal folding chairs, arranged in a circle....They could be stars of a slasher film or the world's saddest hip-hop video." But in fact, they are mothers who have been separated from their children and incarcerated for one year at a former college campus outside Philadelphia. Recalling The Handmaids' Tale, Orange Is the New Black, and Clockwork Orange, Chan's debut features Frida, a 39-year-old Chinese American mom with a part-time job in academia and an 18-month-old named Harriet. Left for a younger woman by her husband, Gust, soon after their daughter was born, Frida is struggling with exhaustion and loneliness when she has her "very bad day"—she leaves Harriet alone in the house while she goes out to get coffee and pick up papers at work. Harriet is taken into custody, then sent to live with Gust and his girlfriend while Frida is surveilled in her home and on supervised visits to determine her fitness to parent. When she fails, she is remanded to reform school with other mothers who have looked away at the wrong time, who have given in to anger or selfishness, who must now repent and relearn. "I am a narcissist. I am a danger to my child," they are trained to recite, along with "I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good." They are paired with lifelike robot dolls on whom they practice "Fundamentals of Care and Nurture" and study "Dangers Inside and Outside the Home." They are taught to speak "motherese" and to disregard their own needs and desires; they are tested, monitored, scanned, and evaluated. Friendships and romances bloom; desperation spreads; trouble brews. If this doesn't become a miniseries, nothing will.

An enthralling dystopian drama that makes complex points about parenting with depth and feeling.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982156-12-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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