PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewBrooks-Dalton has a different sort of vision for the post-apocalypse, one that’s not so dystopian ... In the final section, the story takes an unexpected utopian turn ... It’s good to read an alternate and more hopeful story of how life might be experienced on a planet that is partly dying but also evolving, even if fewer humans remain.
PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewMuted ... Quiet ... A book unified by a gently plaintive tone, heavy symbolism and a reverence for Tennessee ... Siegrist gives tender treatment to these fragile, abandoned men and boys ... Politics are nearly absent from these worlds, but there is social context to be found in the deft details ... There is a strange sense of almost antediluvian time operating in this atmospheric collection, and intriguing hints at lives influenced more by myth than by history.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewCash is a good storyteller, capturing the cadence of Southern speech and the complexity of modest lives with thoughtful intelligence. Class distinctions are cleverly revealed ... The problem is that this suspenseful Reagan-era story of a Southern sheriff haunted by a violent act in his past seems most believable as the invention of a well-intentioned author writing in 2021. The bad characters are cartoonish ogres ... It’s a comforting story that all racists are open and immediately identifiable, but also a distorting one. Racism is structural, and also insidious and pervasive, often hiding behind the smiles of Southern politeness. A progressive white sheriff in the 1980s South who is blindsided to learn that his co-worker of two decades is a bigot rings false in a novel that seems to redeem Southern liberalism, rather than fully exploring the deeper politics of place.
RaveThe New York TimesHumor may seem ill placed in a novel about lynching, but Everett has mastered the movement between unspeakable terror and knockout comedy, so the reader covers a laughing mouth with one hand and stifles a gasp with the other.
Amy Jo Burns
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... fierce and moving ... Burns skillfully shows that women who are often accused of lacking agency in fact make difficult decisions based on a severe \'poverty of choice\' ... This intricate novel is that wrenching testament, told in language as incandescent as smoldering coal ... No novel is flawless, and neither is this one. A couple of subplots are patiently developed but hastily resolved. Most of the male characters remain opaque, with murky motivations. But this doesn’t detract from the cumulative power of Burns’s intergenerational story of women who get by on grit and find nourishment in friendship. Shiner sings when Wren breaks free of her family trappings, and embraces school and love — and storytelling ... Despite the plot’s violence and death, this is not a despairing book, but a hopeful one, of Appalachian women taking back their life stories from hoggish men whose power, both in the home and outside of it, is largely an illusion. Neither grim cliché nor opportunistic elegy, Shiner is something far more raw, and more honest.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn the retelling of the Loray Mill strike and the courageous role of Ella May Wiggins, Cash vividly blends the archival with the imaginative. As the historian Perry Anderson has noted, good historical fiction has the ability 'to waken us to history, in a time when any real sense of it has gone dead.' When the willingness to suspend disbelief has taken on a new and sinister meaning, we not only need the novel of well-known history, we need the lost-to-history novel. Cash, with care and steadiness, has pulled from the wreckage of the past a lost moment of Southern progressivism. Perhaps fiction can help us bear the burden of Southern history, which is pressing down hard on us today.
RaveThe New York TimesOne of the remarkable qualities of Ms. Ferrante’s work is her nuanced portrayal of class distinctions, especially among the working poor. Many American novelists, if they touch on class at all, confine themselves to the broad categories imposed by race and geography … Ms. Ferrante’s books differ greatly not only from American novels but also from most modern ones. She writes like a classical tragedian dropped into the contemporary … Essentially, this is a woman’s story told with such truthfulness that it is not so much a life observed as it is felt. The reader is ransacked and steps back into the world gingerly, with lingering questions about estrangement and belonging.