PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewPoignant ... Zig-Zag Boy,...is by turns an eloquent meditation on the power of nature and a terrifying exposé on the hellscape of parenting a mentally ill child into young adulthood ... Intense, readable ... This book will be a balm for relatives of people with mental illness, particularly those who haven’t yet sought support. But if you’re looking for in-depth analyses of conflicting treatment modalities or scientific theories, “Zig-Zag Boy” is nowhere near as thoroughly researched as Kay Redfield Jamison’s work on bipolar disease or Leslie Jamison’s and Carl Erik Fisher’s addiction memoirs ... Frank is better at describing her journey than being prescriptive or placing it in historical context ... It reads as if she had committed to telling her story, but she still wasn’t comfortable probing the hardest parts, possibly because of her fear of being stigmatized and judged — and possibly to protect Zach’s privacy. We also don’t know whether Zach participated in or approved the writing of this book ... Still, much of Frank’s writing is fresh with keenly observed details.
Erica C. Barnett
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewWith snide asides reminiscent of those spouted by the main character in Fleabag, Barnett mocks the hipsters she worked with in Austin ... Her prose zings as she describes drinking to fit in with her alternative-news tribe ... Her turnaround is illuminating and occasionally hilarious, as when her A.A. sponsor suggests she add the F-word while praying for an old boss she can’t find it in her amends-making arsenal to forgive. Though Barnett’s prose style is brassy and cleareyed, with echoes of Anne Lamott, the drinking stories become oppressively repetitive ... Braiding in the science, history and an analysis of America’s byzantine treatment system would have helped. But that context doesn’t surface until the last chapter, in a conclusion that feels tacked on, as if ordered up by an editor after the third draft. Still, Barnett’s pluck will appeal to avid memoir readers, who will cheer her hard-won recovery, especially the steadfastness of her best friend, Josh. For those new to recovery and the people who love them, Barnett’s story could be a balm.
Joshua B. Freeman
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAt a time when the ghost of the American dream hovers over headlines...Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World should be required reading for all Americans ... Though I wish he would have lingered longer on the workers’ lives, he has a sharp eye for the raw, gut-kicking detail ... Behemoth is contextually thin in places, especially Freeman’s take on deindustrialization ...
Freeman only cursorily explores the aftermath of globalization, automation and unfettered free trade, and he doesn’t ask what the government owes the people still living in America’s former mill and mining towns ...
Perhaps it’s beyond the purview of a historian to wrestle with such questions. Perhaps it is enough that this thoroughly researched history makes us question our own accumulation of the stuff in front of us and our complicity in the truth we dare not see.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalCiting a breadth of documents, from archival letters and maps to business records and fictional accounts, Mr. Stoll, a professor of history at Fordham University, traces the assault on Appalachia all the way back to the system of enclosure in England … Mr. Stoll is an affable academic, happy to dwell in endnotes but equally adept at crafting metaphorical imagery. (‘From six miles above the earth the country looks like wrinkled paper.’) But at several points in the book I wished for more narrative juice … Ramp Hollow should be read, however, not for its policy proposals but for the compassion and historical attention that Mr. Stoll devotes to this long-maligned region.