RaveThe Washington Post... a dazzling triumph ... Walton brilliantly uses the unfolding story of the present to unspool the hidden story of the past ... How wonderful it is to watch Walton build that complexity, starting with Opal’s fraught music industry debut ... Opal’s confidence is hard-won and triumphant, but it’s also connected to the messier things that make her a fascinating fictional character rather than a martyr. Opal can be selfish, defensive and oblivious to what gets lost in pursuit of her own ambition or desire. The fake-documentary format gives Virgil’s and Pearl’s voices room to shine and sometimes gently push back against Opal’s story of how she invented herself ... It is refreshing to read a book that centers a Black woman who has this many layers, a book that seeks neither to save her from nor punish her for the flaws that make her human ... At times, I held my breath, wondering if the novel could sustain its tightrope act — balancing its array of voices, its fictional history with actual history, its affection for Opal with the clarity of its portrait of her, its interest in Sunny herself with the story Sunny purportedly set out to tell. The first half of the book builds to a fuller account of the climactic event in the story’s past, and I wondered whether there would be enough narrative momentum left for the second half. I worried that Sunny’s own arc, primarily focused on the challenges of being the first Black editor of Aural, a legacy music publication, might start to feel sidelined or extraneous, given that it appeared only in editorial notes between the chapters...I should have had faith: Walton structured this book masterfully. Halfway through, a major revelation about the past shifts the narrative question to the present, brilliantly spotlighting how salient history remains in a country that has never fully reckoned with racism or held its perpetrators accountable ... My only real disappointment with The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is that when I finished reading, I had to remind myself that Opal Jewel was fictional, and I couldn’t search the archives for her interviews, read more biographies, listen to her entire musical catalogue, and tell everyone I know to do the same. Still, I am grateful for this fictional account, which gives readers the chance to meet an unforgettable character and also provides a lens for considering the real-world artists whose stories have not yet been told in a way that centers them or gives them proper credit.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... beautifully evocative ... This book is shaped, and given buoyancy, by Garcia’s sharp prose and by Jeanette’s ability to continue believing that the unexpected is possible, even as it repeatedly fails to materialize ... The chapters are sufficiently self-contained that the novel has the rhythm of a linked story collection, a structure that effectively emphasizes the disconnections and breaks that have shaped these characters. The connections that survive do so in compelling ways ... A lesser writer might have used the books’ symbolic weight to try to close some of the historical gaps or heal familial wounds. Instead, Garcia has the wisdom to let the books illuminate what can’t be recovered, no matter what can be inherited ... The depiction of the women in Jeanette and Carmen’s family is confident and layered, capturing their decencies and failings. I found myself wishing for the same depth in the sections about Ana and her mother, Gloria ... Placing characters in an unjust situation is a difficult task for a writer — if Ana and Gloria were anything less than flawless, their portrayal might be read as giving ammunition to people anxious to defend the U.S. immigration system. Still, at times their flawlessness reduces them to their suffering ... Though Garcia thoughtfully engages the ways her white Cuban characters experience racial privilege and a privileged immigration status, the book doesn’t escape echoing this privilege in Ana’s narrative arc, which is never fully situated in the context of her own life ... There is, though, a satisfying grace in Ana’s return. Early in the book, Jeanette thinks of Gloria: \'Even the best mothers in the world can’t always save their daughters.\' By its conclusion, Of Women and Salt suggests that though this may be true, it is also true that in the face of tragedy, even the most flawed mothers may be able to help save someone else’s daughter.
RaveNPRAsali Solomon\'s Get Down is a book that understands the degree to which race and racial identity are so often about performance ... Solomon\'s characters are aware of the ways in which they are weird and quirky and lonely and awkward and searching and human. They are aware of the ways in which they are never far from their histories, and never free from the prisms through which they are viewed ... The thread that ultimately ties these stories together, and these characters to readers, is the raw desire for genuine human connection in the face of everything — race included — that seems determined to sabotage it.