RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... a magnificently paired narrative ... White’s portrayal of French nobility — its prejudice, self-obsession, and pathological insecurity — is one of the novel’s signature pleasures, tempered as it is by Yvonne’s suffering at the hands of her spouse and his parents ... At the same time, Yvonne’s power of observation regarding the many cultural differences between Texan and French society is overwritten in a few cases ... That such a delicately balanced novel comes from a writer as experienced as White is no surprise ... no small pleasure in itself, but it might just as well serve as a welcome reminder of — and entry point into — his immense body of work.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksDavidson never gives too much away too quickly, and rarely over-explains the magic on the bayou that his characters are aware of but barely understand ... teases the supposed line between literary fiction and horror. The characters here are fully fleshed and dynamic, even the relatively minor ones like John Avery. Only Avery’s wife, the least-developed of the bit players, seems a touch contrived ... The writing is descriptive, rich, and enhances the action rather than restrains it. A few tics, like a penchant for splitting sentences with italicized interjections, supposedly giving us a character’s thoughts are more trouble than they’re worth ... even better than Davidson’s very good debut, which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. This second effort — a frightening, sticky, damp story of the bayou — certainly delivers on the promise of the first.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksWhat O’Callaghan achieves in his descriptions of place, counterbalances the frugality of the novel’s dialogue ... Caitlin, Michael, and their supporting cast are not nearly as verbose as O’Callaghan’s exposition, which can, at times, seem too heavy for the delicate matters at hand — marriage, its inertia, history and stability, the love contained within it, illogical and unheeding — even in the way the text appears on the page, where paragraphs of description separate spats of diegetic, sequential dialogue ... seems imported from an earlier decade, complete with an earlier decade’s set of literary preoccupations. My Coney Island Baby is perhaps one of the few recent contemporary literary novels to eschew any claim to \'timeliness\' ... Technology fails to make a single appearance; politics is absent. The novel works more slowly and makes promises less grand and more familiar than most of its peers but tells the story I imagine O’Callaghan intended: a heartfelt, engrossing web of four intertwined lives strewn with tragedies and banalities, all bound together by an affair.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books\"The surreal or carnivalesque is refreshing in Mayer’s writing; the fantastic and the ridiculous are handled with measured sentences and clear, unexaggerated prose. The quality of the stories’ structure is what one has come to expect of Iowa Writers’ Workshop grads: The pacing never drags, and the narratives turn neatly, usually without sacrificing surprise ... Aerialists is not particularly quotable, for better or for worse. It is, rather, Mayer’s carnival of characters that I find myself carrying around in my head ... Within this poignant blend of knowledge and ignorance, Mayer’s portrayal of childhood becomes exquisite ... Only on occasion do characters fail to realize a story’s potential ... Still, Aerialists is full of weird, singular stories articulated in bracing and unusually disciplined prose. Mark Mayer’s carnival of oddities is worth the price of admission and, like the model train’s banner car, leads one to believe that more delights lay in store.\