RaveThe Pittsburg Post-GazetteThe resulting style has been praised by a wide range of readers and critics, and it deserves every word and more ... If there’s one thing that distinguishes Lucy by the Sea from the other Lucy Barton novels, it’s the way it draws Strout’s previous novels together into a separate literary world.
RaveStar Tribune... deftly dramatizes the complicated ways that histories and identities intersect for members of the Chinese diaspora, in this case to create boundaries that forbid meaningful connection ... These two stories bookend this moving, well crafted collection perfectly, as they explore ways in which the human capacities for resilience and imagination, so obviously on display in immigrants\' lives, shape our lives more broadly — and how essential they will be in determining forms of life in the future.
PanBoston GlobeIts plot follows a central male character and its narrative voice never strays far from that character’s thoughts ... In his past work, Wayne has been able to create complex, engaging novels within this framework ... But I’m not sure the same is true this time ... Maybe it’s because Paul represents everything I try to avoid in life (I’m a 48-year-old white English professor), but the more time I spent with him, the harder I found it to take him seriously. And the less I wanted to ... I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that Paul’s takeaway after executing his plan seems so delusional that when I went back and reread the novel from the beginning, it occurred to me that it might all be narrated from a psychiatric hospital ... Of course, it’s possible this is the point.
MixedPittsburgh Post-GazetteThe essay on art pushes back against calls for art to contribute to social justice. The chapter on sex asserts the possibilities of sexual liberation against what Nelson sees as a current trend (which she links to the #MeToo movement) toward \'detailing the gruesomeness and pervasiveness of (hetero)sexual power relations.\' In other words, both chapters primarily fight against restrictions instead of exploring new possibilities. The final chapter on climate looks outward, but only tentatively ... [a] limited conclusion may disappoint some Nelson fans, particularly those (like me) who were so moved by The Argonauts. But the author is more focused on creating a practice of freedom with her style than on any triumphs her style might produce ... Nelson’s most remarkable achievement, not only in On Freedom but across all her books, is that she consistently makes good on this wager to enact a form of care through her style. Of course, readers may recognize this achievement and still be left with a feeling of disappointment at the book’s modesty.
PositivePIttsburgh Post-GazetteThe vision on display in [one] paragraph—the way it surveys genders, races, sexualities, and fashion choices in the room and haphazardly mixes and matches them—is one of Brandon Taylor’s major achievements ... There are not many writers who represent such a wide range of identities in their fiction, nor are there many who weave them together so effortlessly. But Taylor’s fiction is no multicultural paradise ... Both Real Life and Filthy Animals focus on characters who struggle to create meaningful connections amidst this array of identity ... Both books offer moments of possibility, but never any deep connections.
PositiveThe Pittsburg Post-GazetteEveryone who reads Blake Bailey’s 912-page Philip Roth: The Biography will say it is well researched, and they will all be right ... Part of the value of Mr. Bailey’s biography comes from the wealth of information it provides about Roth’s early years ... Mr. Bailey does not condemn Roth for these actions. Nor does he defend him. Instead, he presents his research as evenly as possible, without making judgments ... voluminously researched, good-humored, and honestly written. Readers will discover new information about Roth’s personal life and probably even learn about written works of his that they didn’t know existed. But if Roth wanted it to turn him into Emma Bovary he’d only be disappointed. Again.
PositiveThe Pittsburg Post-GazetteTo her credit, Patricia Lockwood doesn’t write this experience as though it will awaken her character to what \'really matters.\' She also doesn’t use it to paint her character’s prior life as shallow. Rather, she explores whether the two worlds can co-exist, and how they change each other when they meet.