A haunting meditation on identity and violence.

CALL ME CASSANDRA

A figure from Greek mythology is reborn in the Caribbean in this novel by the award-winning author of The Black Cathedral (2020).

In 1975, Cuba sent troops to support the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola in that country’s civil war. Over the next decade and a half, more than 300,000 Cubans would participate in this proxy war between Soviet-style communism and Western powers led by the United States. This is the historical backdrop for Gala’s tale of a boy from the port city of Cienfuegos who believes that he is the reincarnation of Cassandra, the priestess of Apollo “forever condemned to know the future and never be believed.” Rauli’s sense that he is in the wrong time and place is exacerbated by the fact that he is a slight, fair, bookish boy who likes to wear dresses in a culture that prizes machismo. His difference will make him a target—for other kids, for his fellow soldiers, for the captain who brutally abuses him—but it also gives meaning to a life that he knows will be short. Because he has Cassandra’s curse, he knows that he will die in Angola at 19. Before he dies, though, he will converse with Greek gods and African orishas and be accompanied by a chorus of Erinyes that gives his story the shape of classical tragedy. Fate hangs over this novel. Rauli cannot escape his doom any more than the nymph Thetis can protect her son, Achilles, by dressing him as a girl. Of course, the clothes that are meant to disguise Achilles’ true nature reveal Rauli’s, but it’s a truth that he is compelled to keep hidden. The Cuban conscript is not a great warrior, and his grave will be an unmarked patch of jungle, but—unlike the hero of the Iliad—Rauli has the power to give voice to his own story.

A haunting meditation on identity and violence.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-3746-0201-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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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