RaveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch\"This is a major work: deeply detailed, bristling with thought and ideas, and constructed of many intertwining narratives and finely realized characters ... Lepore’s gifts as a storyteller make for accessible reading ... History may not offer a way out, but Lepore’s history tells us how we got here.\
RaveSt. Louis Post-DispatchHameister is deeply, self-deprecatingly funny like this as she examines her fate as a \'professional nervous person”\' ... But the core of these essays is a dreaded trifecta of anxiety, body image (\'I will never be thin enough to be the fat girl in a movie\') and dating, which Hameister tackles with admirable honesty and wit ... Courtenay Hameister’s Okay Fine Whatever is endlessly funny and brutally honest.
RaveSt. Louis Post-DispatchIt is impossible for the reader not to hang on to Wash’s every word; Edugyan brings alive the boy’s sights, sounds and his moment-to-moment sense of impending danger and menace. Lesser authors, for instance, might simply dispense with the minor character description of \'house porter;\' Edugyan instead pulls readers into the scene ... Washington Black is a taut and suspenseful story, not a celebration ... an astounding novel, carefully crafted at the level of each word choice, as well as the overall themes it scrutinizes.
PositiveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch\"The Wrong Heaven, taps into a dark and funny unrest seen — most famously — in the early works of Lorrie Moore. It’s a raw look at how women handle — or don’t — \'curdled potential\' and self-inflicted pressure of day-to-day life. Amy Bonnaffons is a new author you’ll want to read and want to watch.\
RaveSt. Louis Post-DispatchEach new story swerves like a breathtaking drive through LA, logical yet surprising ... Fight No More takes the connected story model to a pure and higher form, creating a satisfying web that expands one character, one ZIP code, one housing situation at a time, to 13 tales that are each distinct and whole but form something daring in their entirety.
Sayaka Murata, Trans. by Ginny Tapley Takemori
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch...[a] deceptively breezy novel ... The book is a sly commentary on social pressures for conformity in Japan, told through the engrossing first-person character portrait of Keiko Furukura ... Though Murata never explicitly says so, Keiko Furukura may have autism spectrum disorder. It provides her character an especially honest voice and an altogether fresh tilt on known topics ... Convenience Store Woman, though spare, holds outsized lessons about worth, work, expectations, and contentment that translate well into our changing U.S. economy.
RaveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchHe tries to make sense of loss, mortality and aging in his brilliant new collection of essays ... mostly, these essays, which are laugh-out-loud funny, true and introspective, are about the Sedaris family and how, \'at this particular moment of our lives, no one belonged together more than us.\'
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch\"These Sisyphean examples of feminist life are what propel the novel forward, more so than character or plot. The Female Persuasion slices into issue after issue: corruption in low-resource charities, threats to women in online gaming, illegal abortion in the 1960s, the politics of cleaning someone else’s house for money, the heroin epidemic and coming of age during the Great Recession in 2008 ... Wolitzer is often insightful and arresting ... With the #MeToo movement fresh in the headlines, The Female Persuasion could not come at a better time.\
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch\"Mangan combines these elements into a taut and heady suspense story ... There’s the evocative heat, beauty and menace of the \'strange, lawless city,\' particularly in the restless final days under French rule ... Constraints on adult women in the 1950s add to the book’s tension.\
RaveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchThe book opens relatable and funny, with a self-deprecatingly charming Young ... Young uses rudimentary drawings, multiple points of view, diagrams, screenplay format, lists, and advertising jargon. One chapter is an apology letter written to an abused and stiffed cab driver in San Clemente, Calif. The inventive literary forms compound the disjointed emotions that Young is living while adding humor and a bit of distance to painful subject matter ... Matt Young insists on writing everything that is warped about serving in the Marines and weak about himself. Yet in the end, there’s an entire book of strength between the lines.
PositiveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch\"The strength of \'Only Child\' is the sensation of young childhood that Navin creates ... On the other hand, more nuanced issues in “Only Child” are frustratingly not addressed in depth or at all, because it would be too arduous or contrived to have Zach do so. He’s a highly reliable narrator, honest and endearing, but he’s 6 years old.\
RaveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch\"Amy Bloom always captures love on the page honestly and lushly ... Bloom also registers love’s pinch and inconvenience; its incongruities; how love pulls people into unlikely — even perilous — couplings ... Her novel is a towering love story of two remarkable women.\
RaveThe St. Louis Post-Gazette\"The radiantly talented Tayari Jones has written a deeply beautiful and painful novel that examines the crush of false imprisonment … This marriage blends country and sophistication, poverty and prosperity, which Tayari Jones captures with fresh truths throughout the book … An American Marriage is suspenseful, as one worries how — or if — these two sparkling young people and their promising union can withstand what’s befallen them.\
RaveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchReaders will cheer for Mokhtar Alkhanshali, the subject of Dave Eggers’ most recent book, a biography … The entirety of The Monk of Mokha — Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s life — reads like a harrowing adventure story. Readers will hold their breath for the charming, brilliant child of the Tenderloin … The book is a wonder: dense with details, yet light and often funny … Eggers has an urgent message about resilience and a new American Dream, and his literary skills make it easy to hear.
Stefan Merrill Block
RaveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchHis [Block's] second novel, A Storm at the Door, based on Block’s own grandparents, was the tale of one couple’s World War II-era struggle with mental illness and institutionalization. Block’s newest novel, Oliver Loving, rejuggles these same themes ... The author, a graduate of Washington University, slowly and expertly draws connections, while his grieving characters can make none at all. The Lovings describe life as italicized before and after the shooting. But Block convincingly posits that the tragedy only laid bare existing family dynamics: depression, alcoholism, favoritism and an inability to listen or hear one another ... Block’s pacing and tone are remarkably even-handed through 395 pages, which softens the sometimes grisly material ... Oliver Loving, finally, is a taut and frustrating mystery in the best sense. All of life’s difficult questions are asked on these pages. How one teenager’s neighbors and family answer them is heartbreaking and will have readers holding their breath.
RaveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchSmile is Doyle’s 11th novel; it deals with physical and sexual abuse of teen boys in the 1970s by Christian Brothers instructors ... It’s the bittersweet best of Roddy Doyle, funny and true ...there’s a darkness and twist to Smile that shows Doyle capable of new tricks ...at the book’s end, readers will have to recalibrate both what they’ve just read and the extended reach of Doyle’s dependable talents ...is no easy maneuver: tackling a sensitive subject with the grace and gravity it deserves, and freshly delivering what readers expect in Doyle’s fiction (wit, dialogue, and the accuracy of youth).
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchBy far and away, the most compelling character is the eponymous anti-heroine Marion. Once in hiding, she 'prizes her own ability to coordinate, once wasted on PTA functions and her husband’s literary readings.' Marion can be a shrewd and steely criminal, but Culliton limns out Marion’s history, linking every bad decision back to the college education that intelligent Marion didn’t get or a bad waitressing job in her 20s. Culliton doesn’t excuse Marion, but she makes a complex character sympathetic and humorous. The Misfortune of Marion Palm is a screwball comedy of a novel for current times.
RaveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchZhang’s stories start out brittle and unsparing but settle as the girls get older, more educated, more financially secure and further away from 'sleeping ten people to a room.' But even 15-year-old Jenny, poised for Stanford, secure in the suburbs, says of her parents, 'whatever happened to them in the year before I was brought to America was somehow related to their refusal to ever order beverages at restaurants because paying an extra dollar or two for something they could get in bulk for cheaper activated some kind of trauma inside them. It really did' ... Sour Heart is joltingly fresh and necessary. She’s a standout choice for first Lenny author, an imprint dedicated to publishing complex female voices.
RaveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchOn each crisp left-hand page is a paragraph or two of Cole’s hypnotic prose, headlined by one of 73 places: Venice, Mexico City, Paris, London, Omaha, Bombay, but also hard-to-find spots like Brienzersee, Switzerland. Opposite each essay is a photograph … Blind Spot name-drops Hitchcock, Gucci handbags, Black Lives Matter, the book of Genesis, the painter J.M.W. Turner, Schubert, the Iliad, Juliette Binoche, and Vijay Iyer, juxtaposing specifics against images of a birdcage, scissors, a parking garage, folding chairs, a mountain range and a baggage carousel … With his deep and varied talents, and his thoughtfulness, Cole transforms a simple travelogue format into something haunting and existential.
RaveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch...another brilliant collection of linked short stories ... Although Strout retains an affinity and skill for certain plotlines and mindsets, not having to stay grounded to the stoicism of a single character creates a new wildness ... Anything Is Possible is many good things between two covers: a reason to celebrate for fans of Elizabeth Strout and a joy for short-story lovers. It is a meditation on how familial secrets can shape generations. Most of all, it is a writer refining her own form with heightened complexity and daring.