RaveSan Francisco Chronicle... a dazzling blend of fact and fiction with piercing echoes to today—women’s lives subsumed by child care, a violent and polarized America, men warped by whiteness and power and delusions of grandeur. Even without John Wilkes Booth’s chilling role in U.S. history, the family is a novelist’s dream: celebrated and reviled, alternately flush with cash or near starving, plagued by questions of honor and illegitimacy, its members beautiful and brilliant and tight-knit. Fowler’s excavation of this material is astonishing in its breadth and specificity, treating events of historical record with the same detail and care as secret bedtime talks and plays staged in treetops ... Our immersion in this family is so intoxicating, so complete, for a time we almost forget where darling brother John is headed; I felt something like complicity, having spent so many pages watching him ... Booth does not simply report on the past. Instead, it points with deliberate intensity and no small amount of criticism—at the hypocrisies of our present moment, at the story of America that’s still being written.
RaveSan Francisco ChronicleIf you’ve followed Krauss from novel to novel—it’s probably obvious that I have—to read this new collection of stories written and published over the past 20 years is a bit like flipping through a photo album of Krauss’ writerly obsessions, the pages full of reflections of characters and cities and themes that feel hauntingly (and sometimes thrillingly) familiar ... Krauss’ New York, her Tel Aviv, are vividly captured in this newest book, a continuation of maps she has been drawing for years. Many of the stories explore the intersections of Jewish history and contemporary Jewish life. Stylistically, active scenes are often deprioritized for a kind of meditative, scenic mindscape across which time and memory flow freely, a technique deployed in Forest Dark. Several stories have an elliptical, fragmented structure that implicate the reader in the process of piecing the narrative together ... This is not to suggest that the stories in To Be a Man read like testing grounds for Krauss’ novels, or drafts of questions that find their deepest expression in those longer works ... a collection of wonders, though how those wonders resonate for each reader will be different depending on their relationship to her work. But for fans and newcomers alike, To Be a Man offers the pleasure of being in the company of Krauss’ surprising, challenging mind, tugged along by an imagination that’s ever curious about the limits and possibilities of fiction, of time, and of love.
Kelli Jo Ford
RaveThe San Francisco Chronicle... an ode to the fearsome bond between mothers and daughters, and to the way that potent connection twists and tightens over the span of a life — especially in the absence of fathers ... cleverly connected stories ... Ford’s pages ache with tenderness and love and no small amount of frustration — her characters are all trapped in different ways, by crappy jobs with too-small paychecks, by men who fail to do right or stay, by the debt of love they owe their mothers, their daughters ... isn’t a mournful novel. Ford’s prose is so absorbing that you’re right there, helping Justine and Reney free a garbage bag full of goldfish or watching the sunset with them over Lake Tenkiller; their lives are difficult, yes, but full of joy, too. Now and then, Ford will turn up the volume in a sentence, sing a little...Ford’s writing is full of poetry. These stories stand up beautifully to rereading; they made me excited for what the writer will do next ... The intricate web of love, memory and blood that binds the women in Crooked Hallelujah together feels as if it were born of careful attention, of listening.
Emily St. John Mandel
RaveThe San Francisco Chronicle... masterful ... prescient as Station Eleven has proved to be in our current moment, The Glass Hotel”— despite its near-past setting in the years between 1999 and 2018 — feels uncannily reflective of the crisis we’re living through now ... heartbreakingly resonant ... Maybe we don’t understand life during a pandemic better by reading about a fictionalized pandemic. Instead, we need art like The Glass Hotel, a novel that argues that our stories are tied up in each other’s, that reminds us, when we are in isolation, of our connection.
RaveSan Francisco ChronicleThis is not the one-note portrait of misery that you might remember. With wit and tenderness, Solnit continues to tweak the fairy tale, even as the plot follows the grooves of the original. Yes, there’s a fairy godmother, but she doesn’t appear until Cinderella asks for help. When she speaks, her voice sounds like \'milk pouring into a glass and the wings of a pigeon\'; one of several synesthetic descriptions that light up the imagination ... the contrast between Cinderella’s down-to-earth, relatable progression and Arthur Rackham’s timeless silhouettes elevates this picture book into an art object. It feels entirely fresh, and yet, with a whimsical silhouette on every page, like a tribute to all the Cinderellas who have captivated readers for centuries. I would treasure reading Solnit’s rendition to kids, and I hope its messages can supplant — or at least augment — some of the insidiously toxic tropes of the well-worn story.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review\"By the end of the more than 300 pages, the reader still doesn’t know enough about Emily to argue otherwise. Though she’s one of the novel’s organizing principles — the story starts and ends with her — Emily is essentially a quirky collection of details used to give meaning to the narrator’s existence...This shortsightedness doesn’t stop at Emily. Women, when they appear, are categorized by their sexual availability and desirability. Often they’re given no name, and simply assigned to a male character — his woman, his girl. What’s meant by this construct is unclear. Of course, some men really talk this way, but accuracy as justification seems at odds with how the narrator intends to be perceived ... Cherry is a singular portrait of the opioid epidemic and the United States’ failure to provide adequate support to veterans. It’s full of slapstick comedy, despite gut-clenching depictions of dope sickness, the futility of war and PTSD. The sections on Army life in and out of Iraq offer a searing glimpse into the wretchedness of that American disaster. As a stylist, Walker is un-self-conscious and rangy. He has a gift for the strategically deployed profanity, and writes dialogue so musical and realistic you’ll hear it in the air around you. He can pull off judicious caps lock. And yet, it’s a struggle to root for a novel that relies on a woman for narrative structure even as it constantly undermines her humanity.\
RavePublishers WeeklyThe Witch Elm is Tana French’s first standalone, following six Dublin Murder Squad mysteries. It’s as good as the best of those novels, if not better ... This latest work, privilege is French’s subject; more specifically, the relationship between privilege and what we perceive as luck. Who might we become if the privileges we take for granted were suddenly ripped away? ... The Witch Elm, thanks to a layered network of subplots and the increasing fragmentation of Toby himself. In many ways, the most interesting question the novel asks is not whodunit; it’s whether, and how, Toby will come back together again.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"Locascio is a lovely, imagistic writer, and she’s especially exquisite on the female orgasm, evoking a purple smoke that becomes a motif ... Open Me spends nearly as much descriptive time on mucus, crotch odors and the grime that accumulates in the creases of an unshowered body as it does on the violent beauty of sex—a choice perhaps even more daring than the novel’s nuanced exploration of a teenage girl’s sexual imagination ... Though the framework is familiar, Open Me explodes clichés of female sexuality. On sex and love, it feels transgressive.\
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe plot advances through each woman’s story; as the symmetries between them pile up, along with misunderstandings, the novel accumulates momentum and emotional power ... But when the simmer breaks into a boil, Aliu alchemizes that anger into love, and in doing so creates one of the most potent dramatizations of the bond between mother and daughter that I’ve ever read ... I left this book with the sure sense that the characters were alive beyond its pages, though I wouldn’t dare try to guess what they are up to — Elsie and Lulu are too real for that.
RaveSlateCanin is at the top of his form, fluent, immersive, confident. You might not know where he’s taking you, but the characters are so vivid, Hans’s voice rendered so precisely, that it’s impossible not to trust in the story. Even difficult abstractions, passages that unravel Milo’s most complicated mathematical ideas, take on narrative momentum.