MixedPittsburgh Post-Gazette... a great concept that works well initially, but the interwoven strands start to fray not long into the novel. While Lilac is initially presented as the central character, her importance wanes quickly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — this kind of narrative switcheroo has worked wonderfully in other books. Here, though, it feels unwieldy, especially as the additional voices threaten to crowd Lilac out. This is made worse by the monochromatic presentation of these viewpoint characters; you could swap out their dialogue or inner thoughts seamlessly ... As with the onslaught of characters, this effort feels like too much crammed into a small space. There are a lot of good intentions, but the execution is jumbled. While Ms. Flynn’s writing often feels like it’s trying to rush you to the next chapter, it really shines when the plot slows down. It succeeds most in the small moments. This is especially true for the quietly sad ending, which feels perfect.
MixedThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteCopperhead, Alexi Zentner’s third novel, is an ambitious attempt to grapple with some serious questions about racism’s infectious nature. But while the novel works well in its quiet moments, the story often relies on cheap narrative twists ... Copperhead is at its best when it slows down to let Jessup stew in his problems, and he has a lot of problems, including a horrific accident that eventually drives the narrative ... While Jessup’s moments of self-examination in the novel are particularly strong, the characters in the young man’s orbit could have used some more fleshing out. Wyatt, Jessup’s best friend and a still-zealous white supremacist, is particularly shallow ... heir friendship never feels genuine. This flimsy characterization really sticks out at the end, where the novel rushes to a denouement that feels too right and wraps things up a little too neatly ... Mr. Zentner writes in a clipped, journalistic style that keeps the story moving along, only occasionally letting more florid prose creep in as Jessup wrestles with the choices he made. The author also has an impressive knack for succinctly capturing the character of Cortaca, the novel’s thinly veiled take on Ithaca, N.Y. ... Unfortunately, Copperhead tosses out most of its nuanced aspects and tries to be a thriller for the last third ... the sudden cuts between each chapter feel like interruptions rather than natural places to pause ... As admirable as the book is in spots, Copperhead never quite comes together once the narrative focus shifts into its overly dramatic conclusion.