RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewI was triggered. I was struck to my core — all kinds of overripe feelings and neglected memories shook loose — by Mary Laura Philpott, or more precisely, by her new masterwork, Bomb Shelter ... Just-fineness is not a register in which a writer like Philpott ...can dwell. And that’s where her genius comes in: Her book is about so much more. It’s about a certain kind of love that’s inextricably bound up with the fear of loss ... It is also a spot-on portrait of the complex melancholy of early middle age ... I want to say something negative about this book. To be this positive is, I fear, to sound like a nitwit. So, to nitpick: There’s some unevenness to the quality of the sentences in the final chapter. But there’s no fun in pointing that out; Philpott already knows. \'I’m telling this story now in present tense,\' she writes. \'I’m still in it, not yet able to shape it from the future’s perspective.\'
MixedThe Washington PostBrown is at her best in her chapter on consent, as she engages intellectually with thorny issues involving language, school culture and the more troublesome aspects of today’s parent universe. She is considerably less strong, however, when it comes to doling out parenting advice—which she does in passages so jarringly wooden and oddly pedestrian that they sound almost as if they were shoehorned in, under editorial duress ... For parents of older kids, Brown’s suggestions may serve as quaint reminders of the cozy bubble of early motherhood, when problems seem solvable and the outside world has not yet broken in. But they’re ill-suited for kids in middle and high school, who need the lessons this book wants to share the very most.
Emily Rapp Black
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewSanctuary is, over all, a brutal book to read. Black’s power as a writer means she can take us with her to places that normally our minds would refuse to go. But the narrative also takes us to places we perhaps don’t belong: for example, deep down in the weeds of her meaner-than-ever ex-marriage ... We come away feeling like guests at a nightmare dinner party, left to pick up broken glass after one of the hosts has made a scene . We also, as readers, would have been better off not having to trail Black through her long meditations on topics like time, memory, dark matter, Holocaust youth diaries and \'the elegant imbalance of butterflies,\' digressions that would have made — that do make, taken individually — marvelous single sentences ... At the very start of Sanctuary, Black describes helping people \'order the chaos of their lives through storytelling.\' That goal lies at the heart of her — of any writer’s — life’s work. With just a little more editing, this otherwise often beautiful jewel of a book would have gotten there.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewRealizing that none of [her] articles of faith are true—that, in fact, the disease of addiction is more powerful than even the very strongest parent-child bond—is the essence of Cavanagh’s maternal \'journey,\' which will offer readers facing similar struggles some useful information and, above all, the comfort of knowing that they are not alone. (Readers seeking something beyond emotional community, however, will find a much more satisfying reading experience in strongly reported books like Maia Szalavitz’s Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction or Paul Raeburn’s Acquainted With the Night: A Parent’s Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children.)