RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksE. Lily Yu begins her poetic debut novel, On Fragile Waves, tracking a family’s migration from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Indonesia to Nauru, a small island country northeast of Australia. There, they become quarantined in a refugee tent camp, left to wait with faint hope that they might be granted permission to settle in nearby Australia. The fictional journey juxtaposes the opposing poles of human emotion: doubt and faith, fear and comfort, hope and despair. The family travels endless days filled with dread and numbing cultural indifference from others. The horrific events portrayed are made endurable by the author’s skillful use of characterization and poetic imagery ... The reader [...] becomes captive to the majesty of well-fashioned prose ... The author’s precise prose creates an immediacy of presence, trundling the reader along the immigrants’ desperate journey uphill and down as the four family members, harassed by dire circumstances and insurmountable uncertainty, fall prey to petty bickering and understandable stress. The reader feels every bump in the road ... E. Lily Yu is an author to watch. On Fragile Waves foreshadows an innovative new direction in storytelling. In startling language, she combines dreams, myth, poetry, and drama to tell the contemporary saga of one small girl’s story of migration. The story is not soon forgotten.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksThe plot does not gallop across the page. Rather, it has the relaxed pace of a Midwestern flower unfolding — leaf, bud, and blossom. Hunt paints Zorrie’s life lyrically, up close, and in prose that reads at times like poetry ... For readers in 2021 whose lives have been detoured by lurking contagion and fear, Zorrie, which chronicles the danger of a microscopic foe from the middle of the last century, feels like a welcome fellow traveler — a wise, provocative companion alongside you on a difficult journey.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... an art form in its own right, combining ancient cultural prototypes with modern settings written poetically ... [McQuade\'s] prose is symbolic and, at times, mysterious. She uses language in novel ways ... not a story to rush. It’s not chick lit. It’s not a beach read. Not a whodunit. Not necessarily a book that’s easy to understand the first time through ... This is a slim volume to ponder, full of writing to savor, to glean meaning from. It is the evocation of universal memory, imagination, and emotion — prose that is at once lyrical and deep, telling stories in a language and style that is uniquely McQuade’s.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksAlthough a fictional telling of an historical event, The Quintland Sisters is admirably bolstered by author Shelley Wood’s decision to include diary entries, journalistic research, and clippings from contemporary news articles covering the true lives of the Dionnes ... The structure of the novel, combining history and imagination, provokes renewed fascination with the babies’ actual lives, ensuring the quints’ eternal place in the annals of fact that is stranger than fiction.
Jose Antonio Vargas
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books\"Dear America, is a sweeping, well-researched story of the plight of undocumented immigrants like Vargas, who work, pay taxes, form families, and live for years in America fearful of deportation ... Vargas\' eloquent and emotional narrative in Dear America makes the larger immigrant story personal and relevant. It is a tale of courage, persistence, and candor. It reveals the author\'s confusion and frustration for the plight of others who live an invisible existence, while longing to contribute to a country that provides no legal access to citizenship ... Elegantly persuasive, Vargas calls for a new language around immigration and the meaning of citizenship. He speaks as one man for many.\
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksYou don\'t have to be a Democrat to like John Kerry\'s new book. Titled Every Day Is Extra, the narrative is a bold remembrance encompassing one of the most troubled half-centuries in America ... As he tells his life story, which is largely positive, Kerry does not shrink from calling out mistakes he judges the U.S. has made in foreign entanglements and identifying the administrations and the individuals who made them ... prevailing optimism is matched by Kerry\'s intelligent and practical appraisal of the historical and cultural reasons—the why—behind what motivates foreign leaders and informs their decisions. Clearly, optimism and research proved valuable traits toward effective diplomacy.
Hallgrímur Helgason, Trans. by Brian FitzGibbon
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksWith this request, the reader is launched into Herra's jarring first-person narration, bordering on stream-of-consciousness, that carries us [in a] zig-zag fashion... On her journey, she encounters one atrocity after another, and recounts each with a mixture of bravery, bravado, horror, and resignation. At first, Herra's chilling, bawdy narration is off-putting. But after witnessing her descriptions of cruelty, rape, and the smell of burning bodies at Treblinka, the reader understands full well how the monstrosity of war can whittle away human decency when sufferers relive...scenes through Herra's eyes, skillfully composed by author Helgason and adeptly translated by Brian FitzGibbon, expose the boundaries of descriptive language with arresting similes ... Woman at 1,000 Degrees is not for the faint-hearted. Rather than distancing itself as a remote historical account, Herra's point of view carries the reader atop her back, it seems, experiencing her degradation in excruciating detail ...a bold work of fiction that gnaws at the silence blanketing the blackest holes of humanity to lay bare the author's dark vision of truth.
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of BooksWhile the prose is beautifully studded and excels in arresting, delicate metaphors ('A thousand spiders had made of the lawn an expanse of lace'), the story itself is long and somewhat perplexing midstride ... The overall effect is one of an enormously ambitious novel...which arrests readers with its complex, non-linear plotline and occasionally demands too much of them in the process ... All in all, while admiring the author's descriptive talent and impressive historical scope, the reader feels a measure of relief when the lengthy book ends and s/he is no longer obliged to wander across the ancient tussock of a land well named Peculiar Ground.