RaveOn the SeawallThe experience of reading J. Robert Lennon’s latest title is as akin to playing certain mystery video games as it is to reading a typical book ... The book’s mysteries emerge slowly, perhaps even preciously ... Lennon isn’t failing to realize a detailed world; he’s realizing a non-detailed world. The narration is precise but toneless, displaying the same detachment whether describing neighborhood aesthetics ... The advantage for the writer is the ability to tweak reality and introduce elements as they see fit, no verisimilitude check needed. The pleasure for the reader, when the former is done well, lies in the tension between the world as it is and the subdivision in which the reader or viewer is contained — in how the real world, which the artificial one conceals, sneaks through the membrane. After a quaint start, Lennon proves himself masterful at this ... While it’s not always clear which oddities have outside meaning and which are simply dreamlike logic, the mystery unfolds at a steady drip, and gives the reader some intriguing detours on the ride to the big reveal ... The more the novel goes on, the more its world resembles those in Murakami novels (though we’re spared any sexualized descriptions of women’s earlobes), with their interplay between the strange and the meaningful, the conscious and the subconscious. Lennon makes familiar things just strange enough to be unsettling ... Since we don’t have the picture on the box, seeing the picture revealed as Lennon fits more and more pieces into place makes for an effective mystery format ... But the most interesting thing about the form Lennon has chosen is the way it turns a book about a faceless, nameless character with no memories and few opinions into a portrait. The reader isn’t the only one discovering who this woman is. The narrator is on a journey to see herself, and the life The Subdivision conceals, properly for the first time. The narrator arrives as an empty outline. The journey to fill in that outline is a wild one, but one given meaning by the person we come to see inside it.
RaveThe Kenyon ReviewSerizawa assembles careful layers, a moral labyrinth that may have no exits ... The author does not offer condemnation, but Serzawa is unmistakably and keenly aware of every compromise and failing. It’s all inexcusable logic, but also a fact ... is called a collection of interconnected stories, but the stories reflect and transmute each other. The characters are bound together across more than a century by the family tree in the front of the book, and one character’s testimony often completes—or complicates—another’s. The book resists the label of novel, but even more so resists the label of collection. The stories don’t move forward a unified plot, but they do present a unified collage, a mosaic of a single anguished face ... If that makes the book sound dark, it is. Inheritors offers a heavy and often painful read. Serizawa captures the brutal physical details of war in sometimes excruciating detail ... The gruesome descriptions are rare, but there’s an equal toll to the type of witness Serizawa offers and asks the reader to bear ... The collection closes brilliantly with a pair of stories enlarging that focus, peering into a future in which the children or grandchildren of those characters, for whom the great wars of the past are a Wikipedia entry, try to determine whether the world will lurch into ecological ruin with an equal blindness ... reveals an author of fierce intellect looking at war legacies from this angle and that, working her way into their nuances. By deconstructing the toolkit of the novel, Serizawa dodges the inevitability of a war narrative to offer a wistful hope or a melodramatic tragedy. Instead, she creates a more powerful form in which she can align the pieces to magnify each other like the lenses of a telescope. This powerful, intelligent book stands in the company of William T. Vollman and W.G. Sebald and their investigations of life during wartime or in the long shadow after. But the tone, the structure, and the territory are all Serizawa’s, in a book that deserves to become a crucial pillar in the literature of war.