PositiveChapter 16Jen masterfully builds her dystopian world, depicting how easily such a change can creep over a populace too ready to trade liberty for convenience ... Though Jen seems to relish the world-building aspect of dystopian science fiction, The Resisters is, at heart, a story about love, family, and the core values of freedom and independence. The humor here is drier and more wry than in Jen’s past efforts; the bleak reality of AutoAmerica (and the degree to which it feels credible, if not inevitable) darkens the moments of levity.
PositiveChapter 16Ben Folds’ memoir, A Dream About Lightning Bugs, is as refreshingly iconoclastic as the extraordinary career of its author ... Folds writes with self-deprecating wit, as well as deep sincerity and earnest belief in the concept of what Folds’ father calls \'cheap lessons\'—which Folds himself defines as missteps with \'severe-enough consequences for my actions that I might learn something but not so severe that I would end up losing a limb.\' The point, Folds suggests, is not to avoid mistakes or suffering, but to be capable of moving forward.
RaveThe Nashville Scene\"Maraniss has produced a book which transforms personal history into a rich and penetrating exploration of the complexities of American life and culture that speaks to our time, too ... Maraniss may have only theories about the evolution of his parents’ political beliefs, but in A Good American Family, he makes a strong case for the necessity of thoughtfulness, careful reflection and learning how to live at peace with the contradictions of this American life.\
RaveThe Knoxville News Sentinel...Michael Knight has cultivated an acute sensitivity to the sensation of haunting. He is particularly adroit with the haunting clarity that follows some act or occurrence that forces a reckoning with the simultaneous complexity and triviality of human experience. The influence of Walker Percy hovers, fittingly, like a benevolent ghost over Knight’s elegant sentences, his unsentimental but broadly sympathetic rendering of the genteel South and his gift for seeing the spiritual dimension underlying what Percy calls \'everydayness\' ... Knight borrows capably from the lore of [an] odd chapter of Virginia history, making it a resonant metaphor for the lessons of the past ... Knight deftly ties the disparate threads of individual and community experience together in the novel’s denouement ... Knight manages somehow to employ a number of tropes—coming of age, the conflict between progress and preservation, the tricky politics of private schools and the yearnings of midlife—while nimbly shunning their familiar conventions, making them altogether his own. The result is a deep, luminous work of art, as pleasing as it is—yes—haunting.
RaveNashville Scene[Knight] is particularly adroit with the haunting clarity that follows some act or occurrence that forces a reckoning with the simultaneous complexity and triviality of human experience. The influence of Walker Percy hovers, fittingly, like a benevolent ghost over Knight’s elegant sentences, his unsentimental but broadly sympathetic rendering of the genteel South and his gift for seeing the spiritual dimension underlying what Percy calls \'everydayness.\' At Briarwood School for Girls also echoes with the voice of Muriel Spark, whose The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie will forever remain the girls-school novel against which all others are measured ... Knight borrows capably from the lore of this odd chapter of Virginia history, making it a resonant metaphor for the lessons of the past ... Knight manages somehow to employ a number of tropes—coming of age, the conflict between progress and preservation, the tricky politics of private schools and the yearnings of midlife—while nimbly shunning their familiar conventions, making them altogether his own. The result is a deep, luminous work of art, as pleasing as it is, yes, haunting.
RaveNashville Scene\"... for my money this accomplished debut novel’s greatest strengths are Maren’s entrancing sentences and the complexity of her characters, who in other hands would be reduced to stereotypes and/or objects of pity. There are no heroes here, but Sugar Run’s fallen characters nevertheless earn our respect and sympathy thanks to Maren’s full-bodied exploration of their interior lives and the forces that have bent and broken them ... Maren’s approach is insightful and original, fierce and unflinching. The result is a captivating, troubling and timely debut from a writer to be reckoned with.\
RaveChapter16\"\"Kafkaesque absurdism, Southern Gothic, domestic dysfunction, sci-fi playfulness—throw it all in a blender, and what comes out will look something like Kevin Wilson’s new story collection ... In style, the collection is divided between what used to be called dirty realism—moody tales of sordid lives, though those here are infused with Wilson’s knack for levity, even in the most dismal circumstances—and magical realism ... a writer as nimble and generous as Kevin Wilson reminds us that a great story can assure us, at least, that we’re not alone.\
RaveThe Nashville Scene...a remarkable collection of stories ... Most of the stories in Anything Is Possible follow similar trajectories, calling to mind the epiphanies of James Joyce’s Dubliners and the enigmatic revelation of grace in the stories of Flannery O’Connor. Strout ingeniously links these tales ... This rich, luminous volume makes clear why Elizabeth Strout has become one of the most celebrated and beloved literary voices of her generation.
RaveThe Nashville SceneLincoln in the Bardo is a remarkable achievement; it’s also so unique in form and style that readers new to Saunders may feel a bit confounded ... Saunders’ experiments are situated firmly in the style of postmodern pastiche, in both senses of the term: a collage of voices and perspectives, and an homage of sorts to the great poets and writers contemporaneous to Lincoln ... I recommend both formats [text and audiobook] simultaneously. Hearing skilled voices inhabit the characters will no doubt enhance the story’s resonance, but you’ll want to read along and hit the pause button to meditate on the novel’s finer aphorisms.
PositiveThe Nashville SceneGiven the profundity of Raymer's crisis and the misfortune that abounds in Bath in the course of a short two days, is it impertinent to report that Everybody's Fool is frequently uproariously, laugh-out-loud funny? Few writers can match Russo's knack for comic sarcasm and wisecracking dialogue, particularly through the voice of Sully. Nor can many top Russo's gift for cascading absurd calamity on his characters alongside naked mirth. In Everybody's Fool, we see a police chief who faints into the open grave at a local judge's funeral, an escaped cobra and a chapter titled 'Rub's Penis.' To say that hilarity ensues alongside the grimmer elements of life in Bath is a gross understatement, and a tribute to Russo's prodigious gifts as a storyteller.