PositiveSan Francisco ChronicleElaine Castillo dismantles the notion that art should be separate from the artist, because our understanding of where a story comes from, and who is telling it, matters ... Simple, profound point ... It matters who draws the bath, and that is Castillo’s point. Even if that person is invisible, unmentioned or does not speak, that person matters. Their story is your story, too.
PositiveSan Francisco Chronicle... novelist Ann Patchett is, above all, marvelous company ... gathers together revised versions of published essays and a few new ones, turning her extraordinary powers as a writer to the lovely, unremarkable business of day-to-day living ... Several essays exist in the same chronological period but do not intersect, creating a sort of narrative origami, with stories folding back on one another but not interlocking ... Interestingly, the collection’s title essay is the only one I struggled with...Patchett is well aware of what she has here — a meditation on friendship with a woman who has terminal cancer during a lethal pandemic. But this essay felt less metabolized than her other work, as if the emotions had not yet cooled. Her hunger to capture Sooki on paper, knowing her subject is gold, practically smokes off the page, and that threw me. It’s a strange story, and a surprising one, taking a hard left at the end I didn’t see coming. Maybe that’s Patchett’s point. Even as a writer, you can think you’re in one story, and then suddenly you’re in another. As for me, I learned that contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to love a story to be desperate to know how it ends.
PositiveSan Francisco Chronicle\"... flaws and all, these couples feel real. The pat explanations for why women might start a relationship with a man in prison...may have some salience, but they are not the whole story. By taking this lens to the prison system, Greenwood also cracks open the absolute awfulness of this subworld—the greed of charging prisoners exorbitant fees to have any contact with loved ones; the exploitation of paying inmates $12 a month for full-time work, forcing women to shoulder the financial burden of caring for families; the constant humiliation that is the point, not the byproduct. As Greenwood explains, the way we do prisons in this country is not normal. Perhaps if we approached incarceration differently in America, we’d have a different understanding of the relationships that come out of it as well.
RaveThe San Francisco Chronicle... Sentilles shines a light — or beams a heat lamp — on all the ways there are to love, be a parent and experience loss ... In prose so gripping it reads like a thriller, Sentilles describes the choices that led to the moment when she and her husband are on the phone with a social worker, saying yes to fostering a 3-day-old girl ... Sentilles describes the experience of becoming a parent exactly. Your love for your child feels infinite, but what binds you to them is their infinite need, their helplessness ... That this love story feels doomed from the start is what makes this memoir so devastating ... What makes this book so powerful is that by experiencing motherhood through the lens of fostering, Sentilles is able to look at the wrenching and worn-out topics of parenting in a new way.