RaveBookOxygen... a heartbreaker ... Written in the first person plural and then the vocative, the book offers switches of intimacy and mood. At the pool, an element of social satire is evident and embraced. But Alice’s story is inescapably tragic, a mother/daughter narrative of intimacy and and regret. Both halves are full of lists, accumulations of detail which Otsuka uses to convey brilliant flashes of identity and contemporary notes ... Otsuka’s intention and Alice’s destination are never hidden, the novel’s prose is never excessive, yet this narrative delivers immense power, in both its specificity and wider relevance ... Otsuka’s immaculate understatement renders afresh the ghastly transitions of the experience [of dementia], as well as the wider repercussions. Alice may fade but her after-image will not be so easily expunged.
RaveBookOxygen... an immersive, impactful, politically astute, love-drenched, subtle, often comic work which touches deftly on many important issues, from books and Indigenous lives, to death and hauntings ... Erdrich’s ease, wit and literary experience are on fine display in her generous, multi-layered tale, threaded with injustice and passion. The larger issues will not be resolved, but the personal dramas experienced by Tookie—with Flora, with Pollux, and with her complicated stepdaughter—reach solid and rightful conclusions. And then there’s a bonus final section to the book, in the form of Tookie’s literary recommendations ... Add all this to the charm of its voice, the relevance of its content and the embracing warmth of its love story, and you have a big-hearted book by a national treasure.
RaveBookOxygenIf it’s wicked pleasure you’re after – flavored with Mean Girls and a light sprinkling of social/political commentary – look no further than Vida’s latest ... Despite serious undertones, there is much comedy to be found in the novel, deriving from Eulabee’s deadpan directness which may be a little advanced for her teenage years, nevertheless offers guiltily-enjoyable judgementalism towards many easy targets ... A last chapter, delivered decades later, traces Eulabee’s intervening years, career, marriage and eventual resettlement. Concluding with an encounter between Eulabee and Maria Fabiola on the dreamy isle of Capri, Vida draws a deeper distinction between the then and now, the real and the fake, the honest broker and the liar. This epilogue delivers darker roots to an otherwise relatively easy-to-consume piece of work. It’s welcome but doesn’t change the book’s overall impact. Vida writes compellingly. She enjoys woman-centered scenarios and the exploration of character enigmas. This is one of those, and it’s an unthreatening pleasure.
PositiveBook Oxygen... cherishably Gallic ... This secondary storyline introduces gothic elements to the narrative, as well as a derivative dimension. Themes of violence and predation lend an undeniable chill to the book’s pages but also import notes of melodrama and predictability that jar with the fresher, insular, incremental process of Margot’s unsentimental education ... this is an evocative and compelling story of young emotions explored and exploited, set in a beguiling, class- and money-conscious French landscape ... an evocative, female-oriented debut, a superior summer read that explores identity, sexuality and attachment during the transition to adulthood. Chic and fluid, it offers a compelling tale, and an immersion that Francophiles in particular may relish.
RavebookoxygenThe mocking laughter of a village madman sets events in motion in Mbue’s devastating second novel. The use of insanity to jumpstart a tale of tragedy—and to embolden a cowed population to challenge the power of their oppressor—is an early indicator of the deftness of what is to follow. This new book is a continent and a world away from Mbue’s award-winning debut...graver, more intensely politic, and piercing at a deeper level ... This clear, simple-seeming story of heartbreak, injustice and anger calls to mind other classics of the genre ... Epic wrongs are challenged with soft insight, encouraged by idealism, tempered by experience. This is didactic territory, suffused with humanity, in which novels invite an irresistible response in the face of sequential wrong inflicted on the innocent.
PositiveBook Oxygen... darkly gripping ... Deserted by his wife and daughter, partly at his own encouragement, Hamid is a living breathing ghost or even ghoul, as is glimpsed by his erudite father in a late dream, a vision of a sculpture scarred, blinded and encrusted. It’s to Sofer’s considerable credit that she nevertheless renders Hamid’s voice and his narration so compelling. Perhaps the political box in which he finds himself is locked a little too neatly, perhaps his tone becomes too oppressive in the novel’s later pages, perhaps the novel’s middle section overstates. Nevertheless this is an ambitious, elegant story of metamorphosis, of a slow descent to ‘a constellation of heartbreak…for the betrayal, the love, the destruction\' ... Restrained, precise, ineluctable, this is a fable for our anguished era.
Antonia’s afterlife is a journey full of questions and quandaries, good choices and others, dilemmas of the moral and personal kind which connect at multiple levels with America’s essential issues of the moment ... And yet, for all its interiority, this is a book that slips down like water. Alvarez experience and humanity translates into a soft-spoken but resonant examination of the words we think and say, and the deeds we do on the strength of them.\
Kawai Strong Washburn
RaveBook OxygenA difficult-to-categorize fusion of myth and grit, it contrasts the earth deities of the 50th state with the daily grind of poverty and survival there, and comes up with a moving, original fusion of realism and the spiritual ... Washburn presents Nainoa’s magical dimension not only with restraint but with credibility and a sense of darkness ... There are obvious risks in attempting such a sweeping, big-picture narrative, yet Washburn’s commitment and steady voice lend depth and conviction. This is an immersive, unpredictable, lyrical tale, strong on immediacy and the overwhelming beauty and power of its geography. Linking the modern and the timeless, Washburn’s writing is fresh, forceful and to be relished.
RaveBook Oxygen... there’s no shortage of plot dynamics in Anshaw’s latest novel. But this is neither a thriller nor a sensational piece of crime fiction, instead a witty and rather perceptive consideration of relationships both sexual and platonic, a tracing of the arc of life from the midpoint, and thoughts about how early expectations of fulfilment might have to be modified ... Shrewd, rueful and often solitary, Cate is an appealing central figure whose ambitions and disenchantments might tend toward the universal. She has a tender heart for those she loves, both human and animal, and a brain that takes its time comprehending and digesting events from left field ... Anshaw’s novel cheerfully eschews the happy ever after. Neither literary nor a potboiler, this is instead an immersive modern tale of survival as a single woman, with a lot of interior-design observation stirred into the proceedings. A treat.
Mary Beth Keane
PositiveBook OxygenKeane’s quiet capability embraces a three-generational plot, multiple character perspectives and some complicated topics, notably mental health and addiction ... a broad yet domestic canvas ... Gentle but affecting, Keane’s novel delivers a mature version of a narrative likely to appeal widely. Love will weather vicissitudes. It doesn’t get more conventional, nor special, than that.
MixedBookOxygen\"Death and suffering, poverty and guilt suffuse – to the point of drowning—this unhappy first novel. Every departure from the main narrative thread—whether it’s the Challenger disaster or the Exxon Valdez oil spill—adds another overwhelming layer of mortality and horror to the story. But one crowning loss binds the tale, the death of a child and the suffocating layers of blame and responsibility that lay waste to the surviving family members ... Lin is undoubtedly a talented writer whose invocation of this group—their individual psychologies and combined tragedy— is achieved with numbing impact. Yet the book is impossibly burdened by its surfeit of bleakness and fixed tone. Fingers crossed that her second will offer more in the way of light and shade.\
PositiveBook OxygenIt’s a tale of science – of time and travel and matter – but it’s also a science-fiction adventure story, and a pretty gripping one, in which the heroes/scientists/survivors are principally the women. If fathers matter intensely, mothers do just as much ... Swyler connects the pain of losing a child rather like Betheen and Nedda constructing their salvation machine out of many pieces of old but freshly purposed equipment – with fluid readability and a powerful emotional drive. The science is delivered plausibly and persuasively. And Nedda’s personality, fused from her parents’ love and skills, their mistakes and her own individual nature, is charming both as adult and child ... For all its modernity – the ideas, the science, the female leads – this is, at heart, an old-fashioned romance of a story, and that heart can sometimes appear a soft one. Father/daughter love binds it. As doting parents and clear-eyed but adoring children part but never wholly separate so Swyler sends out a message of loving reassurance into the universe.
RaveBookOxygenThe women’s analysis of what has happened to them, their treatment, their own futures and their children’s, and above all how to absorb these events into their own sense of faith, fills most of the book’s pages, and might seem at times dry. But its territory is so horrific, so stark, so outrageous and contemporary that it magnetizes the reader. Toew’s sensitivity, lucidity, lyricism and wit ensure it ... Synthesizing complex and ancient arguments which also have bang-up-to-the-minute relevance, the book offers a crisp, immersive vision of oppression and survival. Read it as a manifesto for clear female thinking. And for a moving, positive view of the way forward.
Luce D'Eramo, Trans. by Anne Milano Appel,
PositiveBook Oxygen\"D’Eramo’s account... [is] full of grim detail and personalities, recorded with an unblinking gaze. The author’s intellectual curiosity is inexhaustible, her self-scrutiny relentless ... The structure of the work – which was written over some decades – is dislocated, partly to reflect the piecemeal nature of D’Eramo’s understanding. Thus its chronology can seem confusing, but the author’s unquenchable spirit burns bright throughout, self-analyzing, offering support to others, always working to comprehend ... D’Eramo died in 2001 but her voice survives, blazingly, in this impressive, bonkers book which tells a startling story of life and commitment, taken to the extreme.\
PositiveBook OxygenComplicated though this may sound, it makes for compelling reading, in what unspools into a curious, cool and powerfully atmospheric view of souls struggling for meaning while tossed on the seas of political and psychic chaos ... Goldsworthy deftly creates a dark, chilly and foreign world as viewed by the outsider ... While the Russian reminiscence can sometimes lie too thickly on the page, the powerful European mood – of sorrow, of catastrophe – lends heft to this vivid re-animation of not-so-distant history. Goldsworthy, author of Gorsky and Chernobyl Strawberries, emerges as a plangent, persuasive voice.
RaveBook Oxygen\"This well written, often funny, but also tender and subtle first work demonstrates significant talent and has been acquired by publishers in some seven countries ... Halliday – who won the 2017 Whiting Award for Fiction – writes in a fresh, unobtrusive manner and seems easily capable of the stretch. Each of her three leading characters emerges with a credible, compelling perspective but most beguiling of her creations ... This is a strikingly mature and entertaining first work. Lisa Halliday’s first excursion is one to note.\