RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewKeegan’s beautiful new novella, Foster, is no less likely to move you than any heaping 400-page tome you’ll read this year ... Keegan’s novella is a master class in child narration. The voice resists the default precociousness, and walks the perfect balance between naïveté and acute emotional intelligence ... Keegan averts expectations in the couple’s portrayal, which brings Foster some welcome levity ... Like a great, long Ishiguro novel, Keegan makes us complicit in what her characters want, setting us up for utter heartbreak when they don’t get it
María Gainza, tr. Thomas Bunstead
MixedWords Without BordersBunstead, as translator, is able to render her voice with equal enthusiasm ... Gainza brings up interesting questions about the ethics of criticism ... Here’s where Gainza has tremendous fun with fakery, and where her inventiveness and language breathe a new dimension into the novel ... It’s this fashionable combination of fiction and nonfiction that gives the novel its playfulness ... Less successful is the second half of the novel ... Renée’s life, while interesting, doesn’t generate the kind of narrative propulsion one hopes for. She is both mystery and disappointment, both to the narrator and, sadly, to the reader. M. doesn’t have enough to write her book, and the novel becomes a sort of catalog of M.’s failure to uncover the truth of a person ... Gainza’s ideas about art and value are compelling throughout, and she is certainly adept at drawing parallels between imitation, identity, and truly knowing something or someone. The issue is that reading about the metaphoric parallels in this novel is like viewing paintings in a gallery. Gainza’s ideas are on display, we can see them and recognize their thematic importance, but they never really feel engaged, nor do they produce satisfying dramatic outcomes. In a sense, there’s little to feel here, but loads to admire. That said, this is also the kind of artful novel whose intention isn’t to satisfy dramatically. The plot, if any, is a muted tone of gray. There and not there. Gainza is much more interested in presenting a portrait of three (actually, four, including M.) women as they rebel against the art world and the select few who get to partake in it. The proletariat may well get to share in the pleasure of art by visiting museums, but who owns its true value? Gainza’s three women are each, in their own way, raising a big middle finger to Art, Inc.
PositiveNPRRussell\'s novella is a quick, topsy-turvy thriller, that extends her oeuvre into Orwellian territory ... Although Russell\'s foreboding never really equates to true drama, it\'s her sharp, witty insights that elevate Sleep Donation ... As the story catapults into peril, some of the plot turns feel a tad forced ... And then there are some chapters that are far too short, sometimes just a sentence or a few lines of dialog, meant to illuminate a feeling within the blankness of a page. Rather than evoke any emotional response, they fall flat compared to Russell\'s full-bodied scenes. But by the end of this nightmarish dystopia, as Trish is taken to her wit\'s end on behalf of the sleepless, it\'s Russell\'s ability to balance the quirky and the absurd with psychological acumen that turns this unbelievable world into something more than dreamlike.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewCensus may be his most emotionally affecting book to date ... While the census may sound like an Orwellian device, Ball is more concerned with his characters’ emotional lives than with authoritarian foreboding ... While Ball accomplishes the stated goal of his preface, bringing the son with Down syndrome to life, the census itself leaves a little to be desired. If the narrator aims to hear each citizen’s story, that which is 'most particular, most special,' he never shares enough details to make a lasting impression ... Yet the spare and episodic encounters do take us to some tender places...More than a dystopian tale, Census is a profound and stirring meditation on love, loss and paternity.
PositiveNPR...where I Can't Breathe becomes most riveting is in the aftermath of Garner's death, as district attorney Dan Donovan fails to get a grand jury to indict Officer Pantaleo ... Taibbi isn't trying to win over any skeptics about Garner's case. He's a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, and his style is a distant cousin to the gonzo tradition of that publication. He's not afraid to make a character he deems villainous look buffoonish — like Donovan, who has 'a long neck ending in a small blond head, like a yellow lollipop.' Does Taibbi's style undermine his reporting? Slightly. But the legwork he's done, and hours he put into documenting Garner's home base, talking with his family and friends, and capturing the people of Tompkinsville Park make all the difference ... Garner's portrait is fully alive and breathing. But as I Can't Breathe grimly reminds us, the forces that killed him are equally alive, and as powerful as ever.