PositivePittsburgh Post-GazetteAs its title suggests, it’s a droll bit of social commentary. But underneath, it’s also more than a little in earnest ... González doles out basic information about her three protagonists slowly, and they take shape like a puzzle gradually being completed ... González stylishly recounts Beryl’s regrets about her dropout past and Vik’s tentative approach to—well, everything. Her most lyrical writing is saved for Berenice ... In González’s bitingly satirical vision, Americans can’t seem to find a middle ground between romanticizing nature and exploiting it until it either collapses or bursts ... González is a fresh voice, asking important questions in an engaging and incisive way.
RavePittsburgh Post-Gazette... while the book colorfully summons what Mr. Shorto calls \'the era of zoot suits and Studebakers,\' it doesn’t romanticize the mob ... Mr. Shorto is unstinting about his grandfather’s failings: Russ, who died in 1981, is the abiding mystery, or perhaps it’s a void, at the book’s center ... While any look at the mob inevitably dwells in the shadow of such pop-cultural depictions as The Godfather, Goodfellas and The Sopranos, Mr. Shorto leans heavily toward the life-sized. His mobsters are hustlers, but they’re no role models, and their families often bear the burden of their misbehavior. Nonetheless, there’s something charmingly prosaic in Mr. Shorto’s accounts ... Small-town mobs were at least as ubiquitous in Western Pennsylvania as they were everywhere else in the country, Mr. Shorto notes, and his book is a detailed and cogent primer. But what gives Smalltime its emotional power is the author’s relationship with his father, whom he recruits to help with research.
PositivePittsburgh Post-Gazette\"... [O\'Nan] excels at observing nuanced dramas and personalities playing out beneath the skin of something as mundane an extended family at their summer cottage, doing a jigsaw puzzle during a rainstorm ... Mr. O’Nan, with some of his most gorgeous writing, also provides Henry instances of unexpected grace ... This novel is a lovely tribute to the enduring mystery of an ordinary life; it wouldn’t have hurt Henry much to hold him to stricter accounts on the matter.\
Scott W. Stern
PositiveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMr. Stern shows how the Plan, ostensibly about public health, became a law-enforcement cudgel, one aimed at \'loose women,\' disproportionate numbers of whom were working-class or of color. And while all prostitutes require clients, hardly any men were arrested under the Plan ... Most of what Mr. Stern knows of her story comes from court transcripts. That makes it difficult to build a whole book around her, and Mr. Stern’s essentially big-picture account of the Plan sometimes gets a bit dry. However, he does a fine job linking the American Plan to pure greed (states paid cities to administer it) and even to the U.S. government’s infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Mr. Stern also documents contemporaneous criticism—whose sources ranged from women’s rights advocates to such unlikely bedfellows as journalist H.L. Mencken and the Industrial Workers of the World—and some detained women’s own rebellions, including ingenious escapes. And Mr. Stern notes that all American Plan laws remain on the books—tools close at hand for some future oppressor.