RaveThe Buffalo NewsAlice McDermott reaches deep into the well of human experience once again in her superlative The Ninth Hour –– a novel that, unlike most of its predecessors, is enlivened throughout by wit ... It is the act of a complex soul –– humanity’s inner struggles being a specialty of McDermott who also places most of her mainly Irish Roman Catholic characters in her native Brooklyn and environs ... If this seems labyrinthine, McDermott handles it with such clarity and simplicity that the book’s depth sometimes eludes us – but only till the next plot twist (of which there are several) ... Suffice it to say that McDermott, however small and domestic the circumstances here, is dead on as she goes to the heart of human existence, exploring love and suffering both great and slight as her characters go about their quotidian lives.
RaveThe Buffalo NewsSing, Unburied, Sing is a marvel—a novel that not only transcends the genre but unlike most of its counterparts, can be called literature. Arresting, elevating, relevant, original. All the words apply although Sing, Unburied, Sing is not a pretty book. Jesmyn Ward does not write fetching books. She writes profound and soulful books full of people faced with enormous obstacles. Yet she does this with such lyricism and verisimilitude that a reader is often stunned to find the written word so real, so alive and so filled with passion and feeling that its pages sing ... a triumph—haunting, deep, a slice of life so raw, and timely, that it is at times daunting, of a beauty too much to bear.
RaveThe Buffalo NewsOne is tempted, when reading the sublime Ann Beattie, to do so in one fell swoop. Her stories are that delectable, that easy – at first pass. But it is best to slow down, to savor their cadence, their quirkiness (and trademark humor) before realizing that every single one of them opens onto a fathomless deep ... Beattie makes of us co-conspirators, taking us deep into the psyches of a whole panoply of characters via the smaller, and often hilarious, details of their lives before tipping story upon story over with a surprise event, or realization.
RaveThe Buffalo NewsRiggs’ great gift in the dire situation, her saving grace – and ours -- is that she is a poet, a writer, a woman able to put into words what it is to be told you have a potentially fatal disease when you love your life, your husband, your eight and five-year-old boys. Early on, she is drawn to the sixteenth-century Frenchman Michel de Montaigne, father of the essay and a strong influence on Riggs’ literary forebear, whose thoughts frequently turned to man’s transience … The Bright Hour is far from a scholarly book, grave illness being one of life’s great levelers and the percipient Riggs being acutely aware that she is one of many come untimely toward her end … This is a book you read while holding your breath, hoping for the impossible, becoming tearful and frightened – and unwilling to turn the final pages: The Bright Hour is that beautiful, that achingly alive.
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam M. Grant
PositiveThe Buffalo News...Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s searing account of life after the sudden death of her husband, Dave Goldberg ... there is nothing off-putting about its content which is, at once, affecting, straightforward, revealing and useful, the latter perhaps for generations to come ... Written with Grant, but keeping his contributions to the third person, it is valuable on several levels, offering us, beyond Sandberg’s moving story, a panoply of ways to go through (rather than around, or stuck within) the many losses, great and small, that come to all of us ... But Sandberg is humbled by her loss — and speaks often of lessons learned 'only in death.' She also includes, in Option B, many examples — and statistics — of others finding resilience in the face of crisis, and, toward the book’s end, even offers tips for young widows on dating again.
Joyce Carol Oates
RaveThe Buffalo NewsShattering from start to finish, this is a 768-page discourse on abortion in America that perhaps couldn’t have been published at a more pivotal time. It is also so evenly informed, and balanced, that it presents no discernible point of view ... A Book of American Martyrs is grim going – but the writing is gripping and the subject is apt for Oates, an author consistently drawn to the deep, and the paradoxical ... Oates is a longtime boxing aficionado – and her depiction of 'D.D. Dunphy' in the ring is both brilliant and devastating, words that also describe A Book of American Martyrs. As a novel, I should qualify, this is an overlong book weighted down by extraneous characters. But, for followers of the Lockport-born Oates (and I have long been one), nothing she writes is too much. Nor is any subject taboo. In A Book of American Martyrs, she considers abortion, one of the most incendiary issues of our times, without flinching or taking a side – and this, in itself, is a miracle.
RaveThe Buffalo News...after a deceptively simple start, a book of surprising substance ... There is both hilarity and heartache here as the girls – known as Gwen, Ginny, Win and Vere – attempt to conceal themselves within a parade float headed into town where they intend to slip away, nevermore to be seen by the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration ... Naiveté falls to the wayside as The Guineveres progresses, becoming a remarkedly layered and affecting book with an improbable extra heroine.
PositiveThe Buffalo NewsA taut, slim book covering a single day, it nonetheless encompasses the full gamut of human emotion, and neuroses...Its key is Pittard’s uncanny ability to render not only the spoken but the unspoken words of her characters in a way that showcases their often harmful divide.
RaveThe Buffalo NewsAnnie Proulx scores once again with the captivating Barkskins ... Her prose is often glorious, her several protagonists unforgettable ... Proulx presents these initial characters in sometimes unthinkably primitive conditions, a practice she carries into their development -- simply, and without sentiment or embellishment, telling their stories while saving most of her rich, ever-varying prose for the chief protagonist here – nature’s forests, then and now. The result is an almost perfectly choreographed pas de deux ... Proulx has pulled out all the stops here – giving us along the way every facet of man and womankind. She presents North American and world history, from the 17th century to the present, both as a cautionary tale and as an ode to our now-denuded forests.
PositiveThe Buffalo News...not only a dead-on depiction of a newcomer’s initial months in the Big Apple but a lush, hard-drinking-and-drugging and often sordid rendering of life behind the scenes of one of Manhattan’s most popular restaurants ... Danler knows what she is doing here – bringing us characters who don’t change in Tess’ maturing eyes and who might be workers in any large city in any close-knit industry with the novel’s seducer as much a place as a person.
PositiveThe Buffalo NewsThere is real angst and introspection here – not to mention a large dose of male insecurity that the men of North Bath tend to mask with wisecracks and high jinks ... Empire Falls, Russo’s 2001 novel, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was made into an HBO miniseries. Everybody’s Fool has the same zany potential, the book a repository of a town where anything can still happen – and probably will.