RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Echo Maker is not an elegy for How We Used to Live or a salute to Coming to Grips, but a quiet exploration of how we survive, day to day ... The faith we extend to writers like Weber is, I think, the same kind of faith we put in our best fiction writers. We expect — and need — them to tell us of our world, how things work, how against all odds we make it through. With The Echo Maker, Richard Powers vindicates this faith, employing his trademark facility with all manner of esoteric discourse, but never letting it overcome the essential human truth of his characters ... I haven’t mentioned the expert plot mechanics yet, Powers’s array of tiny enigmas and red herrings, all perfectly paced ... As the features of life after 9/11 come into focus, Powers accomplishes something magnificent, no facile conflation of personal catastrophe with national calamity, but a lovely essay on perseverance in all its forms.
RaveSlateAkhil Sharma has suffered for your pleasure, and the results are magnificent. He suffered in his youth, as his novel takes off from his family history, and he suffered anew as he wrestled mightily, in heroic scale, with that essential writer’s dilemma: trying to get the words right. And trying. And trying. Eventually, he pulled it off … Beyond the sadness, the novel contains a deep, nourishing reservoir of grim humor, thanks to Ajay’s deadpan and dead-eyed perceptions. He’s an invariably unnerving narrator, whether decoding the true meaning of It’s a Wonderful Life or trying to arouse sympathy in his bored classmates by devising cringe-worthy stories of Birju’s pre-accident powers. There are plenty of cross-cultural miscommunications in Family Life, but gallows humor needs no translation.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...a luminous feat of generosity and humanism ... The souls crowd around this uncanny child. As the cast grows, so does our perspective; the novel’s concerns expand, and we see this human business as an angel does, looking down. In the midst of the Civil War, saying farewell to one son foreshadows all those impending farewells to sons, the hundreds of thousands of those who will fall in the battlefields. The stakes grow, from our heavenly vantage, for we are talking about not just the ghostly residents of a few acres, but the citizens of a nation — in the graveyard’s slaves and slavers, drunkards and priests, soldiers of doomed regiments, suicides and virgins, are assembled a country. The wretched and the brave, and such is Saunders’s magnificent portraiture that readers will recognize in this wretchedness and bravery aspects of their own characters as well. He has gathered 'sweet fools' here, and we are counted among their number ... The narrator is a curator, arranging disparate sources to assemble a linear story. It may take a few pages to get your footing, depending. The more limber won’t be bothered. We’ve had plenty of otherworldly choruses before, from Grover’s Corners to Spoon River, and with so many walking dead in the pop culture nowadays, why not a corresponding increase in the talking dead? Are the nonfiction excerpts — from presidential historians, Lincoln biographers, Civil War chroniclers — real or fake? Who cares? Keep going, read the novel, Google later ... the war here is a crucible for a heroic American identity: fearful but unflagging; hopeful even in tragedy; staggering, however tentatively, toward a better world ... events sometimes conspire to make a work of art, like a novel set in the past, supremely timely. In describing Lincoln’s call to action, Saunders provides an appeal for his limbo denizens — for citizens everywhere — to step up and join the cause.