RaveTimeExplore[s] in blistering detail the power imbalances that inevitably exist in academia—and their unsettling consequences ... [A] searing satire ... Chou details her protagonist’s struggles with dry humor and wit, underlining everything about her life that is absurd, just as Ingrid herself is beginning to see it ... The combination of knowledge, power and misbehavior makes for a titillating story.
Julia May Jonas
RaveTimeExplore[s] in blistering detail the power imbalances that inevitably exist in academia—and their unsettling consequences ... Jonas dissects her narrator’s shifting perspectives on power and desire ... In darkly funny terms, Jonas creates a portrait of a narcissist reckoning with her age and vanity, but also the limits of her power. She’s certainly not one to root for, but that doesn’t make her observations on the impact of her husband’s actions any less astute ... The combination of knowledge, power and misbehavior makes for a titillating story.
RaveTIME... an unnerving, contemplative look at solitude and the connections we make with the outside world. For the reader, there’s a palpable sense of dread that keeps the pages moving: Fox won’t live forever. Yet Raven, who knows that well, writes with a refreshingly unsentimental hand. Her main concern isn’t the expiration date of their time together, but how she categorizes and comes to terms with the animal’s presence in her life ... Readers may be tempted to skip over the details in Fox & I that seem irrelevant: the lengthy history of a weed; sentences spent describing Fox lying out on his favorite boulder. But Raven is at her best here, demanding our patience and rewarding those who pay attention with lush prose that coalesces into a dreamy portrait of wildlife.
Zakiya Dalila Harris
RaveTIMEHarris delivers searing commentary on racism in publishing through the eyes of Nella, the only Black employee at the fictional Wagner Books ... The author is uncompromising in her descriptions of the micro-aggressions Nella experiences at the office ... It would be easy to pit Nella and Hazel against each other in a clichéd narrative of women in competition, but Harris knows that there’s no satisfying conclusion to be reached in doing so.
Jean Hanff Korelitz
PositiveTIME... filled with the hallmark twists of a suspense narrative. But beneath all the fun, Korelitz poses a serious question: Does the identity of a writer matter, as long as the story is worth telling? ... only subtly concerned with conversations about race, with Jake bearing a striking lack of self-awareness when it comes to his white and male privilege. Yet as with the American Dirt -controversy, The Plot explores whether fiction must be rooted in something real in order to be good.
PositiveTIMEFlorence is outwardly confident, internally insecure and bitterly judgmental. But what she lacks in likability is more than made up for in her captivating thoughts, fueled by resentment and misplaced aspirations ... Andrews enters darker territory here as she reveals Florence’s hunger to be the person telling the story ... The action that takes [Florence] on adventures far and wide is nowhere near as engaging as their self-destructive tendencies. The desperation for literary stardom is so acute in Maud Dixon it’s unsettling—Florence’s willingness to go to extremes has ramifications both stirring and unpredictable.
RaveTIMEGently, Han pulls the strings of each family member, moving them further from one another, to reveal the cracks in the unit ... To describe the event that causes things to unravel would do a disservice to Han’s expert pacing. Throughout Nights When Nothing Happened, Han lingers in stillness, underlining moments of unease and sadness. While Patty watches her husband and children interact, whether they’re passing each other in the hallway or keeping quiet at dinner, she’s forced to ask herself what the silence means. In delivering these small but crushing observations, Han continuously asks if Patty’s and Liang’s sacrifices were worth it.
RaveTIMEIn cutting detail, Alam moves between all the characters’ private thoughts on race, privilege, class and survival, revealing the lies they tell each other both to encourage a sense of calm and to protect their own insecurities. It’s precisely the kind of story I’ve sworn to avoid since the beginning of the pandemic...But Alam captures the surreal normalcy of life in a crisis; the jarring juxtaposition of moments of mysterious horror alongside long afternoons spent slicing Brie for poolside sandwiches ... I read the book in one sitting, and have thought of it every day since ... can help readers realize that we’re not alone and serve as a kind of reminder of the big picture ... There’s a dark comfort to engaging with these stories, a sense that living in uncertainty does not necessarily mean we are alone—and that knowing the future won’t help prevent it.
PositiveTIMEIt’s unsurprising that Nunez’s latest book is concerned with death and friendship—and the vocabulary we use to describe it all. Her last novel, 2018 National Book Award winner The Friend , followed a woman in the wake of her best friend and mentor’s suicide ... Both books ask how we remember the most meaningful relationships in our lives—and do so without relying on plot ... In What Are You Going Through, Nunez leans on the writer’s introspective tendencies to the point where the novel veers into essayistic territory ... the question that connects the pieces of What Are You Going Through becomes clear: At what point is the pain too much? The two women don’t know the answer ... It’s a sentiment echoed throughout the book: sometimes the only words we have are insufficient to express what we really want to say.
PositiveTIME...thrilling ... In piecing together who this mysterious protagonist really is, McConaghy creates a detailed portrait of a woman on the cusp of collapse, consumed with a world that is every bit as broken as she is. Migrations offers a grim window into a future that doesn’t feel very removed from our own.
PositiveTIME... blistering ... Leilani establishes a tense dynamic that simmers throughout ... It’s all about attention—why we crave it and what forms it takes. Leilani carefully pulls the strings of Edie, Rebecca, Eric and Akila, revealing how lonely they all are ... The result plays out through moments unsettling and surreal, carried by the breathless voice of a woman trying to find direction.
Lynn Steger Strong
RaveTIME...potent ... Strong writes of their friendship in exacting detail, illustrating the ferocity with which women can care for one another ... Elizabeth’s anxious, raw voice ties these threads together, coalescing into a story about the price women pay for craving what’s just out of reach.
PositiveTIME... a welcome reminder of simpler times ... The author’s perspective as a father, witnessing his kids immerse themselves in a foreign culture, keeps the memoir from being bogged down in the history and often aggravating precision of preparing French food. Instead, his writing is filled with humor and heartFood memoirs often romanticize the places in which they are set, but Buford never pretends that Lyon is glamorous. He’s enamored with the grittiness of the city ... [Buford] unveils the importance of understanding a city in order to better prepare its dishes ... For some, it may feel a strange time to read a tale of travel — and the ease with which Buford can hop on an airplane in Dirt could surely spark envy. But in so delicately capturing his relationship with Bob and the boulangerie, Buford underlines a deeply resonant tenet of life: the value of community.
PositiveTIMEThe memoir centers on damaging behavior—substance abuse, physical abuse and painful cycles of neglect—but is written in gripping and refreshingly plain terms ... Stray becomes a memoir about loss. In these moments she asks what it means to lose someone who is still very much alive, and how to rebuild broken bonds. Rootless and in mourning, Danler realizes that in order to usher in the new life she has earned, she’ll have to excavate the one she grieves.
PositiveTIME... an original and electric narrative—one that doesn’t fit neatly into any genre ... The isolation Jia Jia feels in widowhood clearly isn’t new, and is made palpable through Yu’s detached, dreamlike prose ... Another author might have chosen to follow a young widow on a journey of finding love after loss. But 28-year-old Yu, who was born and raised in Beijing, smartly decides not to. Instead, she uses 30-something Jia Jia as a way to explore the tensions of contemporary womanhood ... Yu’s language is sparse yet surreal ... Yu raises provocative questions about why we get fixated on those moments—and how they might relate to the company we crave.
PositiveTIMEAlmost all of Death in Her Hands unfolds in Vesta’s head as she attempts to understand what happened to Magda. Her voice, both strange and assertive, propels the narrative forward. And as her imagination conjures vivid characters and dialogue, it’s easy to slip into Vesta’s conception of reality ... Moshfegh clues her readers in early that this murder mystery may be neither murder nor mystery after all. But that’s ultimately beside the point ... Though Death in Her Hands can be studied for prescient insights into life in 2020, the stories that Vesta tells herself give it a timeless quality. Sometimes, there are healing powers in fantasy.
PositiveTIMEThough Enter the Aardvark is certainly satire, Anthony’s depiction of Wilson’s repressed sexuality cuts beneath the surface. Her dissection of Wilson’s political beliefs, particularly his anti-abortion stance, isn’t just sharp commentary on polarization, identity and power in the U.S. It’s also a poignant examination of what happens when we deny ourselves the ability to love and be loved.
PositiveTIME... an eerily realistic reflection on what it feels like to exist in a bubble of nonstop information ... [Offill\'s] power comes from her tight, spare prose. This proves particularly poignant whenever Lizzie interacts with her son, who makes delightful observations about a world he’s coming to understand ... evolves from a darkly funny commentary on surviving the 21st century to a timeless examination of the challenges that come with loving and living with the people we hold closest.
RaveTIMEYoon’s greatest skill lies in crafting subtle moments that underline the strange and specific sadness inherent to trauma ... more than a narrative of coming of age during wartime ... As the book flips between perspectives, each character is catapulted back, time and again, to crushingly detailed memories of their shared youth ... [Yoon\'s] decision to begin the book when the characters are young proves devastating and essential. In understated prose, he shows how they grow out of their teenage voices amid their fight for survival. As children around the world continue to grow up surrounded by violence and war, authors like Yoon seek to understand how experiencing those horrors shapes the adults they eventually become. And in Run Me to Earth, those horrors are scattered like unexploded bombs, waiting to go off at any time.
PositiveTIME... not simply a quest narrative–it’s also a meta-examination of stories that demands the reader’s patience–and then rewards it ... Morgenstern’s elegant, poetic prose keeps the pages turning as she begins to draw connections within a web of tales that reads like an ode to stories, themselves, and celebrates the distinct pleasure that comes from engaging with a text.
PositiveTIMEThe new book is a nostalgic return to Crosby, Maine, where Olive continues to poke around in the lives of her fellow townspeople ... None of the scenarios is particularly novel ... But the stories are rendered in such delicate turns that Strout is again able to portray the subtle heartbreaks that punctuate the mundanities of life. And none are more devastating than the ones Olive reckons with herself ... While Strout fills her protagonist’s life with exchanges and interactions, she underlines a poignant sense of disappointment. As Olive is forced to reflect on the meaning of her life in old age, she’s overwhelmed by a sense of loneliness–a symptom of living that is perhaps the most crushing of all.
RaveTIMEIt’s easy to forget that Brodeur’s intimate retelling of her formative summers spent on Cape Cod in the 1980s is a work of nonfiction; Malabar comes across like the quintessential lead of any page-turning romance. Brodeur, a book editor for many years, describes her mother colorfully, from the extravagant dinner parties she threw to the glamorous clothes she wore, and offers a striking portrait of a woman chasing happiness with an impossible love ... Brodeur dissects the real-life ramifications of an affair in layered detail. She writes honestly about how being recruited to participate in such a betrayal has impacted her own ability to love and trust as she becomes a partner and a mother herself ... Though the affair is captivating enough to read on its own, Brodeur’s reflections on the impact of our parents create the memoir’s center.
PositiveTIMEPrescott, who has a background working for political campaigns, showcases a talent at blending thorough research–she used Olga Ivinskaya’s biographies to inform the character–with energetic prose. Her writing is propulsive when she describes the high-stakes handling of the controversial book ... where some writers might endow those onlookers with envy or suspicion, Prescott instead paints the group as nosy but caring, curious but protective, all-knowing but discreet. And by allowing them to address the reader and assert their point of view–in a time and place where only men’s voices are heeded–Prescott puts the power in the women’s hands.
PositiveTIMEWhile the voice of Cleo’s ghost is compelling, other narrators are less sharply articulated...But the suspense picks up as Maddie pieces together what really happened to Cleo ... Though Lady in the Lake is a thriller, it’s most gripping when it probes Maddie’s evolving relationship with the city she’s always lived in but is only now beginning to see clearly ... The clarity of Cleo’s voice, which directly addresses both Maddie and the reader, showcases her own complexities and interrogates the biases that threatened her very survival. It’s Cleo whose words make the reader feel the intense grip prejudice has over 1960s Baltimore, and Cleo who makes it impossible to ignore how that ugly legacy lives on.
RaveTIME...affecting ... Greene pours his grief onto the page, rendering a portrait of a father who is fractured and at odds with a world in which his child is gone. He writes in harrowing emotional terms ... what sets the memoir apart is his ability to illuminate the mundane moments that become surreal in the midst of trauma and tragedy ... He conveys his anxieties in potent prose ... Once More We Saw Stars offers glimpses of humor, light and love amid the loss
MixedTIME...an uneven yet decadently told tale about being a woman in a time when there was only one acceptable way to behave ... the narration falters ... As the novel speeds up, allowing years of Vivian’s life to flash by, the story-telling can’t keep up with the emotional weight it’s meant to carry. By fleshing out the journey of Vivian’s life, Gilbert distracts from the strength of the coming-of-age story and the descriptive power of her prose when she lingers on a moment.
Olga Tokarczuk, Trans. by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
RaveTIME[A] winding, imaginative, genre-defying story ... Part murder mystery, part fairy tale, Drive Your Plow is a thrilling philosophical examination of the ways in which some living creatures are privileged above others. Tokarczuk’s protagonist is delightfully specific ... The novel turns from humorous and outlandish to controlled and commanding as Janina methodically ties the victims’ horoscopes to their brutal deaths ... Though Tokarczuk builds suspense with swift and urgent prose, what captivates most is Janina’s intensity.
PositiveTime MagazineWhile asking many questions about adulthood — like what the impact of tucking in her shirt has had on her life — Abbi Jacobson infuses her sharp and witty voice to tell stories about loss, love and finding yourself.