RaveThe Wall Street JournalBy the time you’re finished with Ms. Alexievich’s 470-page oral history of the Soviet people, heartbreak will become second nature ... While the book is an excellent guide to a vanishing culture, it transcends ethnography. Like the greatest works of fiction, Secondhand Time is a comprehensive and unflinching exploration of the human condition—or, as the Russian in me is tempted to put it, of the human soul ... Ms. Alexievich’s tools are different from those of a novelist, yet in its scope and wisdom, Secondhand Time is comparable to War and Peace. ... Her sources joke, philosophize, weep, digress and complain. They bang their fists on tables, describe dreams, plead and argue. Their asides and unexpected confessions are especially powerful ... Forging intimacy is Ms. Alexievich’s particular genius ... She is the least self-conscious and least self-indulgent writer I’ve ever encountered ... The book is easy to read, but not an easy read ... The most disturbing aspect of Secondhand Time is bearing witness to how people’s humanity crumbles under pressure to survive ... Beautiful tales of love and resilience dramatically pierce the darkness, but on the whole Ms. Alexievich creates a group portrait of traumatized people desperately in need of an opportunity to heal—and, tragically, not likely to get it.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewKuznetsova’s writing can take on a breezy, frenetic energy — she is good at sex scenes, drinking scenes and at describing impulsive action. Oksana’s sexpot grandmother, Baba, is a remarkable character, and the depiction of Oksana’s job as a content producer for a media startup is spot-on and hilarious. But the book is hampered by an awkward, self-conscious sprinkling of that Russian Mystique ... Kuznetsova never explores Oksana’s motivations: For a story told in the first person, Oksana, Behave! is remarkably introspection-free ... the protagonist never evolves, continuing to narrate her self-destructive life in the same curmudgeonly voice, devoid of insight. The novel as a result is both action-packed and tedious, its language slipping easily into rote clichés...
MixedThe New York Times Book Review...solid and deliberate. Its chapters, set alternatingly in Russia and America, carry its mysterious plot to a satisfying resolution like an army of obedient soldiers following orders ... The writing is often masterly, and contains vivid details ... But Fitzpatrick is so fond of narrative symmetry, neat metaphors and redundant parallels that her characters, caged in these airtight constructions, fail to come alive ... Her true passion is the fictional Berlozhniki, and she erects a perfect model of this dysfunctional Russian town ... Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick seems so concerned with the integrity of her setting, so preoccupied with finding for it the right shade of darkness, that she manipulates its inhabitants like plastic figures in an architectural model ... solid yet unaffecting.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewRadtke is, first and foremost, a superhuman of illustration, a grandmaster like Adrian Tomine or Chris Ware. Her photo-based, exquisitely executed drawings appear more realistic and seductive than photographs could ever hope to be ... when Radtke uses sequences of subtly changing images to draw time, the sensory experience of Imagine Wanting Only This becomes almost cinematic ... At times, Imagine Wanting Only This thins out into a travelogue. This is particularly true of the middle section ... As Radtke attempts to engage with an immense idea that is beyond most people’s grasp — how to live when all things come to an end? — what ultimately emerges is a portrait of a powerful mind grappling with alienation and loneliness.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Goldberg is successful at weaving his invented characters into the fabric of history, but less successful at making them come alive. At best, they represent historical archetypes ... What carries The Yid is the strength of its premise: It allows for the possibility of resistance instead of resignation in the face of tyranny.