MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewEach biographical capsule is, of course, only as fascinating as the life it recounts; which is to say, your mileage may vary. The passage of a bill through Congress, or of a report through federal agencies, can be as slow and trudgy as a hike through some of the A.T.’s Pennsylvania sections. On the other hand, the story of a 66-year-old Appalachian grandmother (that’s Gatewood), survivor of a three-decades-long abusive marriage, who impulsively decides to become the first woman to thru-hike the trail, with only sneakers and a duffel for gear, is nothing short of rousing, a soul-popper ... D’Anieri is a steady, level guide to these lives ... D’Anieri is sensitive to this historical monochrome. Still, excluded from his sketch of Guyot are the geographer’s crackpot Aryanist theories about racial geography and his esteem for his own white race ... One might argue, I suppose, that Guyot’s racist theories aren’t explicitly relevant to his intersection with the history of the Appalachian Mountains, and that Avery, born in 1899, was parroting his era. But one must also contend—and D’Anieri does do this, if fleetingly, in his final first-person chapter—with the fact that, according to surveys by the hiking website The Trek, roughly 95 percent of A.T. thru-hikers identify as white.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAside from her relation to the author, Hazel Hill’s role in this triad is initially unclear. We wait for her story — a country ballad filled with no-good men, pills, whiskey, evictions and dodgy casino gigs — to intersect with those of Harris and Madden, but it never really does, not precisely, anyway. Yet Hazel’s story, as The Vapors progresses, provides the emotional ballast, the counterweight to all the good-timey glitz, the darkness behind the neon signs. It gives the book its heft, and its warmth. The mob, Hill writes, turned to gambling after Prohibition partly because it considered gambling, like alcohol, to be a \'victimless crime.\' Hazel’s story — complex, turbulent, as haunting as a pedal steel solo — serves as a soft rebuttal to that idea, and is the wellspring of David Hill’s achievement here.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"...the fuel and oxygen of immigrant literature—movement, exile, nostalgia, cultural disorientation—are nevertheless what fire the pistons of this trenchant and panoramic novel. Shteyngart’s subject may be America, but it’s Trump’s America: seething, atomizing, foreign and hostile even to itself ... The alternating Seema chapters lack the antic verve of Barry’s, and not only because Barry is high-tailing his way across America while Seema is back in their apartment scheduling therapists for their son. With Barry, the reader senses (and shares) Shteyngart’s glee as he sinks pin after pin into his finance-bro voodoo doll. With Seema, however, the reader discerns authorial restraint, even remorse ... Shteyngart finds muchness everywhere he looks, reveling in a surfeit of Americana, and chief among this novel’s pleasures is viewing the nation—its landscapes, its people, its curdled politics, its increasingly feudal inequalities — through the vibrant filters of Shteyngart’s Hipstamatic mind.\
PositiveThe New York TimesGraham-Felsen isn’t reaching for the same lofty heights as Lethem did (few novelists dare to), but he is reaching in the same general direction: toward the terribly thorny beauty at the heart of cross-racial friendships, which constitutes, per Leslie Fiedler and others, one of our essential American stories ... Yet this reader found himself wishing for something of Marlon’s, too: his awakenings, his perspective, his inner voice, his fullness on the page. As Lethem wrote in The Fortress of Solitude: 'The white kid has one set of feelings, the black kid another.' That we aren’t privy to those feelings owes less to malpractice than to the inherent limitations of Graham-Felsen telling this story through Green’s blue eyes ... He and Marlon match up in a million ways save one, but that one, in America then as now, seems cursed to outweigh all the others.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewBoyle drapes his novel with enough Christian symbolism to suggest, or at least nod toward, a pious allegory: the Augustinian notion that libido was what spoiled the Garden of Eden, just as, in a sense, it makes a big hot mess of the E2 mission. But Boyle is too agile and feisty a thinker to hew to this line. The search for Eden (or any utopia) is essentially comic because every vision of Eden is a private fantasy, a fingerprint of desires. Humanity, for Boyle, never suffered a fall; we’ve always been this petty and cutthroat and grubby and absurd. And as The Terranauts makes clear, wherever we go — so long as we’re trapped together, in this atmosphere or any other — we always will be.
MixedThe New York Times...[Moody]'s only rarely sighted peeking out from behind the cloak of his own droll verbiage. This yields a novel with a distant, muffled heartbeat.