MixedSlateThe Luminaries is, among other things, an experiment in predetermination. By extinguishing every coincidence, it turns literature into the same kind of problem as astrology: Do we want structural interpretation to dictate narrative, or is it best when a story’s structure, as one character puts it, ‘always changes in the telling’? … Encased in this postmodern complexity is a plot—a ‘sphere within a sphere,’ as one chapter has it—about as pre-modern as it gets … It’s possible to read the book with pleasure strictly on the level of what one might call its ‘literary merits’—or it would be, if only its author would let you. She doesn’t. Neither are we allowed to fully engage on the level of characters or plot—the astrological contrivance is too shifty for that.
RaveThe Slate Book ReviewThe prose, while seeming literarily anarchic, is actually quite focused, stripping sentences to their bare bones not as part of some stylistic exercise, but to convey immediate experience as lived … McBride’s aim, it seems, is to capture experience almost prior to thought, dropping the reader into events at the very moment the narrator, too, encounters them … Girl hews closely to what the feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva called the ‘dark revolt of being’ that looms within abjection.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...a smart, funny, heartbreaking and often sexy delight of a novel that presses hard against the boundaries of where literary and artistic performances begin and end ... While the novel is in one sense part of the recent era of autofictions, several examples of which — How Should a Person Be?, Leaving the Atocha Station, I Love Dick — are mentioned in its pages, there is a sense that The Gift is directed outward, toward the reader, rather than toward the writing self ... metatextual confessions are, like the rest of the novel, conveyed in a charmingly procedural tone that surprises, at times, with how vulnerable it can be.
RaveThe Boston Globe\"...haunting debut novel ... Ruskovich’s prose is immensely seductive, drawing the reader into a narrative that defies easy resolution. The first section unfolds tautly, as though it were a short story onto which the rest of the novel was built in a search for explanation. The subsequent short sections, which move back and forth over 50 years and in and out of various points of view (the two little girls, Jenny, her cellmate, a local boy, even a bloodhound), fill in the gaps of the central mystery and meander, sometimes very far, away from it ... The novel is atmosphere as much as it is story. Ruskovich finds a kind of severe beauty in these woods, in trash heaps hidden in the trees, in the burdensome heat of summer, in dripping pines and the smell of wood smoke, in the whine of horseflies and fingers sticky with lemonade ... In a family marred irreparably by violence, “Idaho’’ finds the ability to continue living by making a home in what is right before our eyes, in those details of life and land that remain, regardless.\
PositiveThe Washington Post...by and large, the novel is grounded in the richness of its characters, and especially in the portrait of female friendship that Shapiro has painted. In their different ways, these two women turn to one another with very human, very ambivalent needs ... Shapiro’s writing is light and lovely, evoking the sun of her title.
Terry Tempest Williams
PositiveSlateIt’s a truism that’s almost a cliché, but convincingly Williams shows how national parks can be both symbols of and actual catalysts for the things that are best about America, offering a montage of grandeur that can not only make one tear up in gratitude and an embarrassing sort of patriotic pride but also demonstrate the real value of these “wholesome” feelings to human emotional life, spurring one to engage differently with the world ... By her own admission, Williams—who is not a historian or policy expert—writes out of her own ignorance here, allowing her questions to guide her. Perhaps as a result, there is at times something tentative, even provisional, about her prose, which can dart between platitude and rhapsodic abstraction.
PanThe Boston GlobeIn the extremes of serious illness, as Bock well knows, life is about a surplus of technical detail; it’s about the exhaustion of uncertainty, of too many attempts at alertness, of too much energy expended in gauging who is advocating for whom. Bock doesn’t balk at the tedious minutiae of disease, and in this way — and by, for the most part, refusing to romanticize Alice herself — he avoids most cliches attending a novel of this kind. Yet his book as a whole is far from polished.
MixedThe Washington PostAt some point, the novel opens up to consider whether being an artist is something one does or something one is. In moments like this, Grushin’s honesty about the dilemmas of artistic life shines through the predictability of her character, drawing the story toward an unexpectedly moving end.
RaveThe Washington PostWood’s lush prose modulates gently between the three women’s voices, incorporating Pepper’s childish colloquialisms, Ada’s bluff irritation and Pearl’s confused meanderings without ever loosing its lyrical power ... The mother-daughter relationships, far from being tidy or saccharine, breathe with the tiny iniquities that women inflict on one another.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review...the novel’s indisputably good heart is weakened by a tendency toward overwriting and the conventionality of its narrative moves ... Yapa’s instinct is to dramatize the answers, to create around them a machinery of narrative buildup — back story, slow reveal, pathos and suspense — that seems too streamlined for the mass of human contradiction on which it’s built.
PanThe New RepublicAny sense of pleasure one might derive from Rushdie's indisputably freewheeling imagination is sabotaged by how little he appears to care for its fruits.