RaveA/V ClubAn evocative narrative and stark dialogue keeps Uzodinma Iweala’s Speak No Evil from a single dull moment ... His characters’ rawness and beauty overwhelm page by page.
Maude Julien, Trans. by Adriana Hunter
PositiveThe AV ClubThroughout her account, Julien succeeds in elaborating on her tormented circumstances with simplicity and precision. Never is a moment dependent on the use of dramatic language or overzealous descriptions. The door to Julien’s life is slowly broken down and glimpsed through small moments and tragedies ... While the memoir treats each chapter and each moment with sincerity and suspension, the latter half of the book feels rushed. It’s as if Julien thought that these chapters, telling the later parts of her life, were not as important as the earlier ones. The quick ending is a great loss to the overall story, especially considering her early life is so successful in the retelling. The Only Girl In The World is still a magnifying study of human trials, obsessions, and abuse, as well as a harrowing look at a child and woman’s strength and beautiful regard to the nature of those around her.
RaveThe AV ClubWomen, young and old, are the focus of Sour Heart. Motherhood; sexuality; matriarchies; the roles of a wife, daughter, and sister; and the misunderstandings that can come from these identities rise up again and again in Zhang’s stories. No two are exactly the same, but all accompany the pressures of growing up in an immigrant family and the history these individuals bring with them ... In her illustration of Chinese immigration in the ’90s, Zhang is often humorous though refrains from lighter tones. The humor in each story is earned in the same way the intensity and depth are—through the strength of each story’s character arc. It is the funny moments of misunderstandings, growth, and relationships that make the girls so real and immensely complex ... Sour Heart is more than a collection of stories worth telling; they’re the sort that rarely get told.
PositiveThe AV ClubThe story not only thematically and structurally changes the usual story of loss, but also highlights a hardened subject matter with new and original attention ... Clemmons is incredibly successful in relating emotion to the reader without overly justifying it. The craved 'aha!' moment of acceptance is hard to find and even harder to understand. Overwhelmed by thoughts of finding love or simply a feeling that can resemble it, Thandi is often left without resolve, her journey creating a deeper void to fill and an unrelenting tear that will never be fixed ... Although much of the novel excels in never being over-explanatory—specifically by describing without telling—there are brief sections that spell out the feeling Clemmons is trying to capture more so than others. It does not work, especially when so much of the story does well to avoid it ... With a subject that has been written about so often, What We Lose innovates the story of grief.
RaveThe AV ClubIn an astonishing synthesis of political commentary and vivid imagery, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West is a commanding yet fanciful outlook of the current climate of global immigration and international xenophobia, as told through the poignant love story of those caught in between ... Hamid’s avoidance of any realism is deliberate and careful, but it never veers far from the very immediate and continuous danger the two must live through to escape. While there is immense beauty in the journey, there is never a lack of substance beneath it all ... In slow, heartbreaking moves, Hamid explores the fragility of relationships and, in doing so, the strides taken within the bonds of dependence and time. It is this balance of physical and emotional movement that Hamid writes best ... Even with the occasional lapses in narrative, Hamid has crafted an incredibly moving antidote to the unseen world of refugees and immigration in Exit West. He masterfully embarks on a journey through the eyes of two lovers.