RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... among the more satisfying and accomplished books of the past year ... Arnett signals her writerly evolution from the first lines of this new work. Allowing no spare moment for the reader to acclimate themselves, the taut, confident opening chapter of With Teeth immediately establishes the punctuated tension and merciless urgency that the earlier effort sometimes lacked. For all the accomplishments of the latter...Arnett now pushes in a new direction and ends up with a follow-up novel of greater skill, ambition, and poignancy than the first ... In a manner more fully realized than in her first effort, here Arnett crafts a protagonist that the reader comes to feel for despite her clear flaws ... For all the wisdom of the point-of-view decision on the macro level, at the micro Arnett’s mechanics and structure do, at spots, belie a lack of total comfort in the form ... The completely unexpected, nearly absurd, wonderfully strange passage that serves as inspiration for the title is indicative of With Teeth’s refreshing interest in the art of the scene. At times, Arnett would be better served staying a while longer in a given moment...Overall, however, the book moves so quickly in leaping, lingering, then leaping once more, that the reader is constantly engaged and excited to read ahead ... As the book progresses, it is the strangeness, the off-white coloring in which Arnett paints, that provides the momentum ... The best moments of With Teeth are when Arnett fully settles into a slice of Sammi’s life and mind, letting rich prose seamlessly guide the narrative from physical description to inner thoughts. In a novel that often embodies in form the hectic interpersonal dynamics of the twenty-first century American family that it takes as content, even brief moments of reprise stand as key landmarks. By taking a second to breathe, we are able to keep pace with so wide-ranging a plot, to stay invested in the characters and outcome ... Arnett has managed to wrangle the wilds of love, family, and motherhood to tell an engaging, voluminous story in bright, lucid prose.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of Books... leans heavily on its namesake as it drives towards its landing, and while we do safely reach the end — completing a long, adventurous, and large-scale journey along the way — at times one cannot help but wonder as to the result if more attention might have been paid to the how over the where ... Shipstead’s plots are ambitious, entertaining, and eventful; in these respects, Great Circle is her preeminent offering. The story, at once timely and timeless, fits well in our modern, individualistic age, a clearly well-researched and carefully considered examination of American history. The dual protagonists are engaging and at times inspirational heroines, talented and capable women who offer a refreshing pair of female voices taking on traditional roles of adventure and daring. Shipstead’s greatest talents lie in conceiving boldly drawn characters who navigate and challenge intricately detailed worlds across stories wide in both scope and range; Great Circle is no exception ... draws upon all of Shipstead’s storytelling abilities to sustain its extensive plot, as these lines surge towards each other in rough parallel. While her endeavors are ultimately successful — a grand story is told in the end — and Shipstead aims for a work epic in scope and intimate in approach, her need to wrangle such a plot causes her to get in the way of her characters, prioritizing accessibility and ease of reading over verisimilitude or scenes that leap off the page. Like the navigational guide that gives its title, Great Circle will appeal most to readers who focus on the end more than the means, but for those with an attunement to the intricacies of style, mechanics, and technique, it proves a challenging and at times frustrating work ... Both narratives, told in mostly swift vignettes that aid in proving momentum to the book, build rather inexorably to their resolutions, and although Shipstead is naturally gifted in her ability to examine a private moment with a character, the voice and restriction of both narrator and author is never far from the reader’s mind ... However, the direct path has its place in the world, and Shipstead manages a wonderfully imagined plot of sensational scope. It will appeal to the reader who simply wants to be told a good story, without fixing an eye towards the finer points of method. Like its central character, once Great Circle is off the ground it moves swiftly and surely, drawing a direct, if circumscribed, line from a bygone age of adventure to a modern, dauntless, world.