MixedWashington Independent Review of BooksEpisodes, like all the writing in Mona at Sea, are exhaustively detailed. There’s an anecdote for everything and a description of every minor exchange. Yet strangely, many interesting characters, such as Mona’s Orman-esque hero, are dropped along the way. Nothing really comes of them ... Mona at Sea remains on the level of wisecracks and snappy comebacks ... Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about this book quite a bit since finishing it.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksAlthough this structure is confusing at first, you come to feel as though consciousness here is layered like cellophane: one reality on top of the other ... An exhilarating freedom emerges as the delivery boy bikes further and further afield, thoughts flitting across his mind. He is in sync with the music of the city and almost becomes that music itself. Ultimately, you find yourself in a kind of dreamscape ... Does it sound a little gimmicky? It’s not. It’s more like a symphony played by various instruments. Despite its surprisingly boring cover, The Delivery more than delivers. I was enthralled — perhaps transported is a better word — from the first page right through to the magical conclusion.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... self-assured ... Moloney highlights touching insights within the prison ... In spite of the verisimilitude that lifted up many scenes, however, I sometimes found myself confused by the routine prison duties described in the novel ... In spite of the sometimes baffling narrative, the problems the COs encounter will stick with me, as will the fact that few narratives tie up neatly.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... exquisite ... it’s atmosphere, language, and a deep sense of place, as much as any answers to these questions, that keep you turning pages. With some chapters running only one or two sentences, the pacing is brisk. But the writing is lyrical, fresh, and poetic. I was reminded sometimes of Dylan Thomas ... a gorgeous coming-of-age novel.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books[Awad] has a wicked sense of humor, and you get the sense she had a lot of fun writing this book. But her sense of the macabre takes a peculiar turn ... it’s a shame Awad doesn’t really run with it or play more with these ideas to greater comic and horrific effect. Instead, she takes the story off on a tack which doesn’t entirely deliver. Bunny has its share of sinister ritual, but you won’t find the kinds of set pieces, nail-biting moments, ramped-up stakes, or manipulations of time and tension you expect from the best kinds of horror stories ... Nevertheless, anyone who has attended an MFA program or writers retreat will recognize many elements Awad satirizes. Bunny is a clever commentary on female friendship and artistic competitiveness. The energy in her writing is truly infectious, and it’s a lot of fun to go with her down the rabbit hole.
MixedWashington PostWhen Lutheran Minister Robert Winter meets young Emily Dickinson at her botany lesson, he is instantly smitten. Later, he woos her and asks if she might like to leave Amherst and travel with him across the country. She replies that she is happier to comply with her father’s wishes that she never marry ... the writing in this novel is beautiful and the story has verisimilitude, Lock has set himself an impossible task. It’s hard, unless you are Emily Dickinson herself, to make moral ambiguity sing. It is certainly charming to imagine the character of Emily Dickinson as Lock has written her. Sometimes her lines are a bit too clever by half, but he also gives her memorable ones, such as her description of what she is reading as \'one of those books you cannot put down for fear the story will go on without you.\' ... I wish I could say the same for The Wreckage of Eden, although the writing is quite lovely and the characters completely believable.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books\"Kushner is fluent in the world she’s created; it feels authentic and fully realized. She uses slang (without overdoing it) as prisoners trade favors, make jailhouse hooch, or send ice-cream sandwiches through the plumbing.
But this novel isn’t for the faint of heart. The story is unrelentingly bleak, and Kushner isn’t above the occasional cheap shot. For instance, as soon as you learn about a pet bunny in somebody’s cell, you just know it will meet a horrible end. There are also far too many pages devoted to a cop gone bad as he masturbates in his cell, while not nearly enough on the tender and dignified Serenity Smith, a transgender woman in protective custody the next cell over ... There were solid chunks of this book that were very hard to endure. But The Mars Room is a significant structural and conceptual achievement, and its characters stay with you long after you put the book down. You cannot ask much more from a novel than that.\
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of Books\"A tale of injustice, black incarceration, and interrupted lives … There are so many threads to a story like this, but author Tayari Jones doesn’t draw on them all. The crime Roy is accused of and the evidence leading to his trial and sentencing are largely left out of the narrative. How that injustice would wrench the couple apart and also draw them together could have been explored more deeply and to great effect here. But many readers will accept this gap because of the strength of the voice … Most of the psychological tension in this book comes from plotting rather than from the chemistry among characters. The letters between Roy and Celestial feel chatty and authentic, but when the two are finally reunited, the weight of the years and what might have been doesn’t lie between them very tangibly.\
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksIn this meticulous and thoroughly engaging novel, Messud traces Nora’s relationship and eventual obsession with the Shahids and poses provocative and cruelly pointed questions about life, love and the meaning of art … As a novel about obsessive love and friendships forged with those we wish to be like, The Woman Upstairs is absolutely satisfying. But it goes much further, becoming a reflection on small and detailed worldviews versus large and generous ones … Like Jane Austen, etching her scrimshaw world in miniature, Messud’s novel is deeply satisfying for its keen detail and insight.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books...Ivey’s story builds like a snowfall, with steady confidence, until you find yourself deep in magic realism. As the story progresses, you notice that when Mabel and Jack speak with Faina, the snow child, there are no quotation marks. Is the author suggesting that the couple is imagining her? Faina visits when the snow has made the world new, more beautiful and quiet, a version of the world Jack and Mabel want to believe in. ... In the end though, Eowyn Ivey draws us into the lean and wild world of the Alaskan wilderness beautifully in this novel. She loves the magical snow child she has created. Many readers will love her as well.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksIt [the book] concerns a group of four Russian friends, Vadik, Regina, Vica, and Sergey, who have immigrated to New York. They are highly educated, work in the tech industry, and are professionally well connected ...conflicts in this cleverly plotted and often amusing novel are mostly about loss, death, and alienation ...the most satisfying pages in this novel are the ones about Moscow ...tapped into a vivid and engaging world with my friend Marta in her Moscow kitchen ... The novel has many funny moments like this one. But since finishing it, I’ve mostly been thinking about its more serious implications. Perhaps the virtual grave that really concerns us is not an app for immortality, but technology itself.