RavePloughsharesFor Khakpour, as we see in Brown Album, her final cry of an essay whose title comes from an album of old photographs that her parents kept, race is at the center of who she is. It is her obsession ... Even her parents, who now identify as Caucasian, wish she’d drop the subject ... Now, in the era of Trump, she witnesses acts of white supremacy and feels she is the butt of racist comments by acquaintances with whom she is staying while trying to recover from an unknown toxicity at the end of 2017 ... But Khakpour is not one to capitulate. This book itself is evidence of the strength of her spirit. In the introduction she states that these essays \'are a testament to the greatest and worst experiences of my life,\' and that \'[m]uch of this book was written in tears.\' The result is a collection that is by turns raw and wry, witty, and heartbreaking. Above all, it is a fearless reflection of an immigrant searching for home and for herself.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThrough graphic descriptions, Barenbaum brings into sharp focus the threats and assaults Jews endured under the tsarist regime ... Some elements of this setup seem unnecessarily convoluted, and at times the reader’s patience is strained as Barenbaum reiterates the novel’s premise. But as Miri boards her first train with Sasha and we begin the siblings’ harrowing parallel journeys, Barenbaum tightens the pressure and pace. We are with Miri and Vanya every step of the way, racing across Russia, leaping from train to train, and hurrying through short, tense chapters ... Some of the novel’s best writing is in descriptions of place ... She is equally deft at capturing dramatic events ... an epic adventure that spins through rich terrain; several engrossing love stories, including one between remarkable siblings; and a scientific intrigue that pits dark ambition against a passionate love of science ...the characters Barenbaum brings to life demonstrate resilience in the face of prejudice, steadfastness in the face of defeat, and the ability to love even when the world has cracked with hate.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksMeloy deftly shifts point of view from one person to the next, giving voice with impressive authenticity to 13 characters ... Meloy has set up her premise with great dexterity, but the bigger feat is to make us care about the answer. Six spoiled children are lost in a strange country and their entitled parents are in a state of anguish. So what? Yet not only do we care sufficiently to turn the pages, but Meloy also has us worrying about every single one of these people ... At times the novel hovers close to melodrama but two ingredients save it: characters that are fully rendered and original, and writing that is beautifully spare and understated.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksKohler is a master of tension, and she has crafted a work that entices the reader not with the question of what’s going to happen — she reveals the circumstances of Maxine’s death in the prologue — but why ... This is painful territory, but Kohler refuses to shy away from even the most wrenching detail. She writes in short chapters, each scene fleeting but startling in its clarity, soon to be overtaken by another, and another. Sometimes her anguish spills onto the page, but for the most part she writes with a journalist’s detachment in the continuous present tense, as if the past is still alive and malleable ... With this powerful memoir, Sheila Kohler may not have managed to save her sister, but she has brought her back to life. I imagine her heart broke again and again in the course of the writing — but then, a broken heart can release compassion, not only for others, but also for oneself.