RaveThe Boston Globe... the strongest in the trio of her novels about the Owens women ... Hoffman writes deftly, and often beautifully, about nature, and she can plot like, well, a witch, casting a spell on her reader to flip pages, reading ahead for plot twists. That said, the novel sometimes sags when Hoffman becomes enamored of her own research. The display of herbal lore and terminology, even for someone with an inherent interest, is at times heavy-handed. Still, Magic Lessons is a compelling reminder of the past, which as it turns out, is not distant enough from the present.
RaveThe Boston GlobeA Children’s Bible is most successful when read as a parable ... But if it’s a parable, it’s deadpan-funny, told in the first person by Eve, a youngish adolescent, in an economical, spot-on snarky voice ... this is very much a novel for our times. The Greta Thunberg-type anger and disdain the children have for the adults is rooted in pressing concern about climate change and the catastrophe that will arrive unless grown-ups act with grown-up urgency about the degradation of the environment ... In A Children’s Bible, Lydia Millet has given us a compellingly written, compact, slyly funny novel that warns of the catastrophic events that may very well overwhelm us. Unless.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune... less personal than polemical. When she’s good, she’s very, very good — bracingly original, biting and funny — and when she’s not, the reader still finds brilliant nuggets ... The essays in which West deconstructs cultural icons — such as Adam Sandler or Joan Rivers — who are not touchstones for me, were less effective. Yet even these pieces contain incisive, memorable passages ... Unapologetic, salty, tired of making nice, West gives us another refreshingly nervy essay collection. While not as poignant or funny as her first book, this one is fueled instead by a righteous anger. Let the witches come.
Kate Bolick, Carmen Maria Machado, Jane Smiley, and Jenny Zhang
RaveThe Star TribuneReading the 19th-century novel through a contemporary lens, writers Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado and Jane Smiley have...produced essays that are fresh, layered and insightful ... Jenny Zhang is tasked with analyzing the ever-popular Jo. She disliked Jo when reading Little Women as a girl, under-identifying with her then, and over-identifies with her now, making for an interesting essay that sags a little under her reactivity. With that one misstep, the March sisters march on in this stimulating, discerning and engaging book.
Ed. by Michele Filgate
RaveThe Star TribuneAre You Listening? is an affecting, beautiful and profound piece ... Hanauer offers the gift of a real person in her father, warts and all. Art is in the details, as the truism goes, and two pieces underscore that ... Our relationship with our mothers is elemental. In inviting such skilled writers to attempt to fathom this charged connection through the angle of what is unsaid, Filgate, a contributing editor at Literary Hub, \'breaks the silence,\' and the result is resonant, truthful and instructive.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune\"As a female writer who cut her intellectual teeth reading the work of these women in magazines and between book covers, I never considered that these writers were not in the center of our shared intellectual history. But if anyone needed convincing, this work of readable scholarship should do it. Dean proves a sharp writer and critic herself.\
MixedThe Kansas City StarThe Leavers is as politically topical as it is sensitive. It is also uneven, but when good, it is excellent: compelling, well-realized, gritty and complicated ... Ko does a good job of contrasting the difference between noisy New York City and the sleepy small town where Deming finds himself in a white house five times larger than the Bronx apartment. But Kay and Peter are cardboard characters, speaking in strained, clichéd dialogue that matches the author’s arm’s-length relationship to them ... The Leavers is a layered story of leaving, by choice and by force, and of returning to a place that one can find only for oneself: home.
PositiveThe Kansas City Star...if the stakes seem lower in Today Will Be Different, the humor, deft plotting and fresh and witty writing that trademark Semple’s fiction will win you over ... Semple’s third novel is leaner than her first two, but still weighted with cultural signposts and brand names. In fact, even for a plugged-in, curious reader, the signposts are overdone. At novel’s end, Eleanor’s soliloquy widens its view, and this time when she proclaims that 'Today will be different,' you believe her.
RaveThe Kansas City Star...a sly book about storytelling, a story about a single incident — really two pivotal incidents — spun out over the length of a narrative constructed like a conversation but encompassing decades ... this book is breathtakingly great ... an affecting, beautiful, truthful novel.
MixedThe Kansas City StarThe best thing about Barkskins, Annie Proulx’s hefty fifth novel, is its ambition, sweep and scope. The worst thing: its ambition, sweep and scope ... Although Proulx often holds her characters at arm’s length and commits some formulaic writing when introducing minor characters more as caricatures, she writes about nature with respect. Particularly when she is describing the night sky, her prose breaks through into poetry ... This historical novel is as sweeping, and as flawed, as its subjects. The reader feels well-educated, but somewhat exhausted, at novel’s end.
RaveThe Kansas City StarLaRose is told with aching understanding by Erdrich, who has great affection for her characters. This timeless 15th novel stands as one of Erdrich’s best: comprehending and comprehensive, full of cascading, resonant details punctuated with spiky humor.
RaveThe Kansas City StarWith touches of mystery, commentary about the art of translating as well as inventing fiction, prose that reads like poetry as well as snatches of actual poems, and wry inter-chapter definitions, Ways to Disappear is a gem.
MixedThe Minneapolis Star TribuneGood on Paper is well-suited to our global world: set in New York, with plot threads in Rome. Though at times a bit too tied to textual analysis of Dante's work, and a little too taken with wordplay, there is an absorbing story here, and affectionate character development.