PositiveThe Atlantic...one-of-a-kind ... a lyrical book, by turns ungainly and graceful, dark and uplifting—right in step with the struggle \'to be good when it’s hard to be good.\'
RaveThe AtlanticHer slim narrative of adolescent crisis is as propulsive as it is disorienting, subverting expectations at every turn ... from the start, Steinberg’s daring experiments with style and perspective make clear that...stock suspense isn’t the point. The narrator’s real quest is to discover whether a soul—hers, if it exists—can be saved ... her voice is by turns incantatory, meditative, vengeful—lyrical yet bitter. Summer uplift, this is not: The epiphany she fears is that the soul is just \'some scared thing that leaves the body when the body needs it most.\'
PositiveThe AtlanticFlair is in the DNA. As attentive to outré details as to psychological turmoil, Scott makes the most of the suspense built into her story ... The bequest was brilliant: A man in unhappy thrall to a place lured his daughter further and further in—and she escaped with priceless insight into its, and his, hidden depths.
RaveThe AtlanticTo say that the practice of palliative care comes to vivid life in Sunita Puri’s pages may seem like a bad choice of words. But her memoir about tending to seriously, often incurably, sick people pulls off that feat ... Visceral and lyrical ... In a high-tech world, [Puri’s] specialty is not cures, but questions—about pain, about fraught prospects, about what ‘miracle’ might really mean. Her tool is language, verbal and physical. Wielding carefully measured words, can she guide but not presume to dictate? Heeding the body’s signals, not just beeping monitors, can she distinguish between a fixable malady and impending death? Puri the doctor knows that masterful control isn’t the point. For Puri the writer, her prose proves that it is.
RaveThe AtlanticYou won’t be able to put it down: As soon as you finish the quietly suspenseful book, you’ll want to reread its opening story ... \'The author laureate of not knowing,\' as Power once described Chekhov in a Guardian column, has taught him well.
PositiveThe Atlantic\"Marina Benjamin, a memoirist and an editor at Aeon magazine, has produced an insomniac’s ideal sleep aid—and that’s a compliment ... For sleepless readers familiar with the feeling of being trapped in anxious ruts, Benjamin’s celebration of mind wandering as \'fleet and light and connective\' may at times sound strained. But if her roaming induces fatigue now and then, her \'border-crossing bravery\' and curiosity prove highly contagious. Either way, her slim book is what the doctor ordered.\
RaveThe AtlanticDaisy Johnson...pulls off several marvels at once in Everything Under (her debut novel, no less). She coins words, channels outlier voices, and fractures chronology. The result is an uncanny update of ancient storytelling on a primal theme: Are our fates \'coded into us from the moment we are born\'? ...
Is escape possible? The question keeps breaking the surface of these mesmerizing pages. Steeped in the Oedipus myth and dark fairy-tale enchantment, Johnson’s world is also indelibly her own.
Nicolai Houm, Trans. by Anna Paterson
RaveThe AtlanticThe title of this slim book sounds like a virtuosic magic act, and the Norwegian writer Nicolai Houm delivers. In the first of his three novels to appear in English, his legerdemain is remarkable. He builds suspense even as he splinters his plot into nonlinear fragments. He conjures up the emotional arc of a female life—from childhood loneliness through intense love to midlife derailment—in just 226 undersized pages. Most unexpected of all, he deepens a tale of grief with a caustic comic tone ... In brief yet riveting scenes from the near and distant past, Houm lets readers piece together why Ashland has abandoned fiction and traveled to Norway, and how she ends up in the wild with a 40-something scientist ... Casting an unlikely spell, Houm conveys not just the tenacity but the tragedy of that longing.
Dorthe Nors, Trans. by Misha Hoekstra
RaveThe Atlantic\"Only a writer as agile and profound as Nors would dare to proceed from such a heavy-handed (and humdrum) premise. The novel’s power builds as Sonja’s inner world unfolds ... \'As women,\' she says of herself and her mother in a rare moment of dialogue, \'we’re not completely fine-tuned.\' As a novelist, Nors comes remarkably close.\
PositiveThe AtlanticSheffer, a historian at UC Berkeley, isn’t the first to probe the past of the man whose name has become a popular psychiatric label ... As Sheffer digs deep into the broader \'child killing\' context in which he prospered, the dark verdicts blur ... \'The child euthanasia program,\' Sheffer writes chillingly, \'reveals an intimate dimension to extermination.\'
Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
RaveThe Atlantic...[a] remarkable memoir ... Forget raw and pure: Wamariya’s quest is to create some semblance of moral and emotional coherence out of a life that too often feels like a self-corroding performance ... The fractured form of her own narrative—deftly toggling between her African and American odysseys—gives troubled memory its dark due.
RaveThe AtlanticThe 11 stories in Emily Fridlund’s slim collection, Catapult, make her title seem especially apt ... Families are upended again and again in stories that, though they rarely have tight plots, unfold in taut sentences packed with startling insights. Why wives suddenly leave, or what husbands expect, or how siblings cope may at first seem weirdly baffling. Yet the worries and the secrets, the lies and the confusions that Fridlund exposes are likely to strike a chord ... Many of Fridlund’s characters share his disorientation. They don’t grow up, exactly, but they do grasp at wisdom. And they appreciate wit.
PositiveThe AtlanticHansen turns a coming-of-age travelogue into a geopolitical memoir of sorts, without sacrificing personal urgency in the process. She frankly confronts her ignorance about Turkey, long the West’s go-to model for modernizing the Middle East. And she wrestles with her assumptions about American beneficence abroad ... Hansen’s disillusionment with the U.S. is so deep that it can sometimes feel doctrinaire. Yet her long stay in Istanbul (she’s still there) gives her an outsider’s vantage on myopic American arrogance that is bracing. And her fascinating insider’s view of Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s rise upends Western simplicities. 'I had the space to look at everything so differently that I actually felt as if my brain were breathing,' she writes. The experience is contagious.
RaveThe AtlanticHow's this for a challenge? Write a novel about virtual-reality gaming and high-school teaching, and make it a story that adults and kids will find hard to put down. In her new novel, Allegra Goodman creates suspense where you might least expect to find it ... Goodman, as deft a plot engineer as any game designer, makes sure her characters don’t stay trapped behind closed doors. She gives them unusual love travails to navigate. The other troubles they stumble into at home, school, and work also test them in ingenious ways. Goodman, like the best teachers, is intent on watching obsessive fantasies turn into imaginative determination. Readers will be too, pulled along by her protagonists’ quests, which are not to follow rules or slay dragons. The real goal is to face complicated selves.
RaveSlateWhat Robinson has written is, in fact, a mystery … Ames is an utterly reliable narrator, not least because he is aware of how fallible a narrator he is, despite his efforts in life—and in this letter—to keep asking what he calls at one point the ‘obvious question’: ‘What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation?’ … In a novel haunted by the parallel between God and his flock and parents and their children, perhaps it goes without saying that the dilemma Ames wrestles with is not merely a personal drama.
RaveThe AtlanticFrank brings Proustian acuity and razor-sharp prose to family dramas as primal, and eccentrically insular, as they come ... As Frank discovers the dark flaws in his aunt’s script for him, he also reveals what she got right, and couldn’t wreck. Frank’s eye and ear, his words and wit—the voice in these pages has such style. Better yet, the style is utterly his own.
RaveThe AtlanticLevy has the rare gift of seeing herself with fierce, unforgiving clarity. And she deploys prose to match, raw and agile. She plumbs the commotion deep within and takes the measure of her have-it-all generation. Without giving away her story, I don’t think you can beat this as a trailer for the turmoil unleashed in her one-of-a-kind memoir: 'And the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is nothing I would trade them for. There is no place I would rather have seen.'
PositiveThe AtlanticNigel Cliff, as given to emotional flourishes in his prose as Cliburn was at the piano, blends Cold War history and biography. Vivid details are his forte ... Cliff’s subtitle overstates, of course, but his hero is enchanting.
PositiveThe Atlantic[Summerscale] expertly probes the deep anxieties of a modernizing era. Even better, she brings rare biographical tenacity and sympathy to bear. She follows Robert, spared the gallows, out of the spotlight and into a lunatic asylum, and then into the horrors of the First World War and beyond.
Herta Müller, Trans. by Peter Boehm
RaveThe AtlanticMüller slowly builds suspense as she draws on memories of the stark landscape, the personal betrayals, the state brutality, the daily dread and tedium. Her prose—as poetic as it is blunt—works like a prism, shattering and illuminating a world that is always watching, waiting. 'Everything that shines also sees,' runs a refrain in this dark collage, which glints with fear—and with beauty.
RaveThe AtlanticIf you’ve never had the chance to stand in front of Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas at the Prado museum in Madrid, Laura Cumming’s brilliant tribute to the painter will make you yearn to ... Cumming traces poor Snare’s ordeals among the covetous and the incredulous, exploring the secrets of Velázquez’s genius as she goes. Her pages pulse with the power of art to change lives.