MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (TLS)Laing is good at helping her reader draw connections ... Borrowing from the theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Laing describes her project in these essays as \'reparative reading\', driven by \'a seeking of pleasure rather than an avoidance of pain\'. This can lead her to make unconvincingly optimistic statements like \'art equals language equals life\', and to flatten out the ambiguities that make her writing interesting. Her essays are at their most enjoyable when at their most open and suggestive.
Jenny Erpenbeck, trans. Susan Bernofsky
PositiveWords Without BordersShe omits dialogue and interaction almost entirely; each chapter immerses readers in the mind of the title character, creating gaps that can only be filled by later accounts of the lives of others ... Erpenbeck’s strategies—these concealments and gradual disclosures—create a subtle layering of stories that is the novel’s greatest strength. That said, one sometimes wishes that Visitation would leave a little more to the imagination ... Erpenbeck is as proficient at the delayed reveal on the small scale as she is on the large. She repeats particular sentences, allowing us to trace the dawning of our comprehension as she gradually reveals more through concentric descriptions and elaborations.
PositiveThe Times Literary SupplementFor three-quarters of Fleishman Is in Trouble (which is a bit too long if, like me, you find Toby irritating), Libby narrates Toby’s experiences and feelings and tribulations, only occasionally mentioning her own. And then, towards the end, the book flips. We get Rachel’s story. It turns out that Toby is not the only Fleishman in trouble. Along with Brodesser-Akner’s perfect-comic-timing prose, this flip is one of the greatest pleasures in the book ... By shifting the focus at the very end away from Toby and onto Rachel and Libby, Brodesser-Akner performs a neat sleight of hand, turning a man’s travails into a woman’s growth. Usually, of course, it’s the other way around.
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
RaveThe Washington Post...a beautifully textured novel, befitting the story of an artist and the son she abandons as a baby ... Yuki’s story feels compellingly immediate, as prickly and unpredictable as its protagonist. She becomes a semi-successful performance artist whose works include a series of photographs of the all-white food she ate for an entire month. Her thoughts are brilliantly rendered in sentences that curl up into questions ... The novel successfully walks a fine line in showing how Jay is affected by his mother’s departure while not stereotyping her as a selfish woman responsible for her son’s neuroses. And Jay’s understated reunion with his mother is both powerful and believable. If his resolve to be a good father feels overly redemptive, it’s only because Buchanan has so skillfully sketched the stories of those who leave, rather than those who stay.
RaveThe Washington Post...[a] fantastically inventive new novel ... Through the story of Pavla’s shape-shifting, Silver challenges the misogynistic conventions of the classic fairy tale ... The novel’s open ending lingers unsettlingly in the mind. Like [Angela] Carter, but in her own way, Silver manages to transform the fairy tale without losing its power.