RavePloughshares... as in any Van den Berg story, the circumstances are dire without ever falling into the melodramatic. Rather, contemporary existence is dire. What lesser writers might hold up as bitingly satirical, like a man whose job is waiting in line for people to acquire a new electronic or bespoke cronut, Van den Berg presents as a matter of course. The world does not need her narration to invoke a despairing chuckle. Absurdity goes unremarked upon, because it’s the order of the day, and she has much more interesting things to say ... Fans of Van den Berg’s last novel, The Third Hotel, will find comfort (if anything in Van den Berg’s work can be considered comfortable) in stories like \'The Pitch\' where the narrator confronts her husband about the other boy in a childhood picture. The story is a masterclass in suspense ... Van den Berg is not the only writer to make this move, but she is damn good at it. We suspend our disbelief to enter the story, we forget, our disbelief rendered invisible until we are explicitly reminded of it, then proceeding with caution—we won’t get fooled again—we suspend our disbelief once more, and somehow come out the other side believing in the story wholeheartedly. The trick is not making readers feel like they’ve been had, but for the story to confirm something they have perhaps long suspected: that things are as strange as they seem ... Above all, Van den Berg is a writer of wonderous understatement. Her stories end with readers feeling they have Wile E Coyote’d their way off a cliff and are only now realizing there is no ground left beneath them. Van den Berg’s introspective narration assures she is falling with us and is just as scared to find out where we are going to land—if we are going to survive.
PositivePloughsharesIn this propulsive memoir, Howard tracks what feels like a lifetime of childhood dislocation, but in fact is only a single year when Howard is between the ages of five and six. She wields the voice of a five-year-old with grace ... This narration feels like a younger Howard dictating her days to an older, wiser Howard who shapes each story to a sharp point. It’s this un-self-conscious, observational deadpan that lends humor and wit to an otherwise heartbreaking tale.
RavePloughsharesThe Bunnies go through a lot of Drafts. There is a lot of blood. Their ritual is an engaging metaphor for the emotional investment artists place in their work and the brazen disregard of an artist working with blinders on. Awad expertly balances the horror of the ritual with her acerbic humor ... The novel quickly ascends to a Heathers level of camp without losing its grip on emotional reality ...the struggle, shame, and frustration of making art rings true ... In many ways, Bunny is a book made for English majors, rife with literary references and fairytale homages, but Awad strikes a careful balance: those who pick up her references will appreciate them, and those who don’t won’t miss out on the story. Furthermore, Awad’s prose is compulsively readable, and Samantha’s voice sticks in one’s head ... With this book, no axe or spell is needed: whatever ritual Awad did, Bunny came out just right.
RavePloughshares\"... spectacular ... The first chapter alone is so startling and masterfully crafted I had to set the book down and pace my room for several minutes before continuing ... Tracker is irreverent, insightful, and deeply compelling ... [The book\'s] details don’t play large roles in the action of the story, but such brushstrokes of masterful worldbuilding abound ... Even with its vampires, shapeshifters, and magic spells, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is real.\