PositiveZYZZYVAIn its unflinching exploration of parental loss, mortality, and solitary life through the eyes of a 52-year-old, recently bereaved divorcé, Ordesa offers a perspective so earnest it approaches unquestionable truth ... The novel occupies a surreal, almost paranormal space in which the narrator’s parents are ever-present as apparitions, literal or otherwise. In this way, Ordesa becomes a ghost story ... Ordesa often veers into cynical and pessimistic territory, and does so in a manner that can feel purely cerebral rather than earnest. As a result, the novel is not always an easy or particularly enjoyable read when taken strictly by its emotional tenor. But its revelations on the omnipresence of love and family, even in their physical absence, are transformative and more than compensate for these darker stretches ... With the cadence of poetry, Ordesa unearths a fraught but tender reality in which each moment we’ve inhabited with those we love is synonymous with the present moment—inextricable from everything that comes after.
RaveZYZZYVA... suffused with lyricism, a multigenerational, mythological, and magical-realist retelling of one family’s fraught history ... By equating it with animal transformation, Chang portrays trauma as something corporeal, out in the open, no longer an enigmatic force inhabiting the dark of the mind. Its tangible effects in Bestiary are manifest; Chang’s prose assumes a crudeness that frequently and unabashedly presents bodily wounds, functions, and fluids as byproducts of a harrowing past. The generational pains depicted in Bestiary thus become fully embodied, impossible to ignore or explain away ... It is not only through the grotesque that Chang renders trauma as something profoundly visceral. Her prose is perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the novel, never straying far from the lyric-poetic. Chang deconstructs language, fashioning verbs from nouns, rendering the earth a landscape for each narrator’s expression. Chang and the women of Bestiary sacrifice the stability of linguistic conventions to fully convey emotional truths. In this way, the novel lights a path to the reader’s understanding of each character’s wounds ... While Chang’s novel is an impressive display of language, Bestiary may wear on the poetically-uninitiated reader. The prose is incredibly ornate, and each page weighs heavy with elaborate images and abstractions ... While this steady extravagance may deter certain readers, it is also what makes Chang’s novel such a memorable debut. And for a story fundamentally about language—or the lack thereof—in the face of trauma, Bestiary’s unconventional and elaborate style provides a welcome sort of excess.