RaveOprah DailyTranscendent ... In keeping us close as she navigates the world, Jones lets us in on the effort required to move through it in a disabled body. She translates this effort to the page clearly, elucidating movement that able-bodied readers might take for granted ... The power of this memoir: Jones so closely analyzes the relationship between work and beauty, pain and pleasure, without ascribing a moral value to either, hinting at conclusions but then challenging you when you think you’ve settled on one ... Quiet profundity ... Jones’s genius lies in her fluency in ambivalence. If she lands firmly on any truism, it’s that nothing—and more significantly, no one—is just one thing.
RaveOprah Daily... [an] excellent, provocative debut novel ... It’s tempting to slot The School for Good Mothers into sci-fi—robot children! state surveillance!—but as the book continues, and as it becomes clearer that success in the school is close to impossible, I couldn’t help wondering if those more explicitly dystopian details were even necessary. At times I found myself sidetracked by the logistics of the AI dolls, and their existence opened big questions about consciousness and humanity that linger. They function ultimately as tools of discomfort, which is where Chan really shines. In a book full of characters obsessed with the idea of who is and who isn’t a good mother, Chan is sure-footed in her ambivalence, never allowing the reader to get too comfortable in a clear answer ... Chan smartly places Frida’s bad judgment just past relatability: Frida leaves her toddler home alone for two and a half hours. Indeed, Harriet could have died. Frida knows this, and we know this, but as we get to know Frida and inevitably empathize with her, the nagging fear shifts. The scariest thing about The School for Good Mothers isn’t that government overreach could allow the state to terminate parental rights based on one mistake; it’s that your worst mistake could turn out to be something you’d never think you were capable of.
Kwon Yeo-Son, tr. Janet Hong
PositiveVultureThe women of Lemon are desperate for answers, and so, too, are we as readers. Kwon brilliantly resists clarity at every step ... it took a second read to appreciate the book as a whole. As a murder mystery fan who’s sometimes so impatient to find out who did it that I’ll jump to the end and spoil it for myself, I finished Lemon somewhere between frustrated and bewildered: What did I just read? Hae-on’s murder, like most real-life murders, abounds with unanswerable questions beyond who did it, nagging unknowables that force you to sit with the discomfort of wanting—even feeling owed—a kind of closure that doesn’t exist ... This narrative style mimics that of the whodunnit, dropping clues and red herrings along the way, but there are other, more compelling, mysteries we’re trying to solve. Your enjoyment of it will depend on how you feel about ambiguity. Of course, there are details that tantalize us with meaning, and then there are those that just seem incomplete ... I found myself wishing Kwon had given us just a little more time with the main trio. Just as I was starting to really get a sense of who they were, they were gone. What is clear is the writer’s shrewd diagnosis of a culture that disempowers women—commodifying and consuming them, one after another, until their appeal wears out.