PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe novel is less concerned with the origins of dysfunction than with how it plays out. Here the likability question arises, whether readers will invest in characters they find unpleasant. It is the bane of any author interested in complexity and nuance, as Poissant surely is. Michael especially is a tough sell. He’s the kind of drunk begging to be face-punched. Thankfully, someone obliges. There’s a lot of bad behavior here, perhaps because Poissant is so good at writing it. His prose throughout is sure-footed and intelligent. Wincing scenes are leavened with moments of grace and mournful nostalgia. Poissant also leaves room for absorbing discussions of art, the socioeconomics of vacation property development, and religion ... six characters share point-of-view duty, for a densely subjective and immersive vision of events. And there are a great many events, perhaps too many, as if the novel doesn’t trust its own instincts for introspection and must keep hurrying us along. Quieter moments, such as Jake and Diane painting a picture together, move us more than a problematic bit about a dead deer does ... The novel achieves a kind of happy ending, though more rhetorical than dramatic. The truly likable entity we’re meant to root for is the family itself, its capacity for love, forgiveness and endurance.
RaveThe New York Times...the obstacles to achieving identity are more complicated than the obvious ones, such as our grievous racial history. Characters are squeezed between competing assumptions and proscriptions, both societal and familial. Tensions are internalized or they explode into violence or both. Packer\'s debut collection reminds us that no stylistic tour de force -- or authorial gamesmanship, or flights of language -- can ground a story like a well-realized character ... Packer does her best writing about characters who are coming of age in one way or another, like Doris, the teenager in \'Doris Is Coming\' ... Young writers, naturally enough, write about young characters. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is not really limited by this. Instead, there is a sense of a talented writer testing and pushing at those limits, ringing as many changes as possible within her fictional world. It is a world already populated by clamoring, sorrowing, eminently knowable people, and with the promise of more to come.