RaveHouston ChronicleUnflinching and honest, The Reckonings seamlessly melds the personal and political into a collection that is both timely and timeless, addressing issues ranging from recovering from unimaginable trauma, to nuclear fallout, to white privilege ... You can start to feel, while reading this collection, that life is one big cover-up, from assaults to oil spills to nuclear waste. Johnson does what a great essayist should do: She shakes you up, shakes you down, makes you figure out your level of complicity, even if that complicity is merely personal or collective silence. Like Michel de Montaigne, the French philosopher who was one of the first great personal essayists, Johnson is unafraid to engage in cultural relativism ... Johnson is a gifted writer, lyrically descriptive ... Lucid and compelling, Johnson\'s essays are not only bold and memorable, but insistent reminders that all good essays are, in fact, reckonings: attempts to work out problems, whether domestic, cosmic or both, on the page.
RaveThe Houston ChronicleThe adolescent heroine of Gabriel Tallent's harrowing novel of abuse will not only break your heart, but leave your mind reeling with her resourcefulness, stamina and humanity. My Absolute Darling is a major American debut that incorporates psychological realism of the highest order, juxtaposed with nature writing that at times is so lyrical, you might as well be reading poetry ... Tallent is not just a good storyteller, he is a superlative describer of the natural world. But what sets him apart is his ability to bring to life how that natural world is interpreted, and what that reveals about the characters in his fiction ... Graphic but never gratuitous, Tallent forces the reader to dispense with the euphemistic psychology that allows us to minimize abuse and our responses to it ... Intense, powerfully wrought and memorable, My Absolute Darling is an absolutely thrilling literary success and a novel that will stay with me for a very long time.
RaveThe Houston ChronicleWhether a newly initiated outlaw on a wild Texas plain or a 16th-century English monk being thrown out of a monastery, the characters of Chanelle Benz's short stories reel you in, taking you to other times and places. It's a gripping trip. In her debut collection, The Man Who Shot Out My Eye is Dead, it's striking how she can create a world so sharply aligned with a specific place without too much cumbersome exposition. Instead, her first-person narrators require readers to have an up-close and personal encounter with their emotional states; you won't have any problems turning the page, and, in fact, you might wish that each story was the beginning of a novel. Not a bad place to start a career in writing fiction.