MixedThe New York Times Book Review... sprawling and engrossing ... Though the book is thick with back story, the main action takes place over the course of a few days, and is parceled out to nine narrators. It makes for a heavily populated novel ... Glass is a masterful builder of fictional people, an expert at charting the architecture of entire lives. But at times Vigil Harbor evokes the feeling of an overgrown garden. There’s enough material here for two or three separate novels, and Glass’s maximalism creates a certain diffuseness of theme as the reader is presented with almost too many competing interests to track ... Certain thematic questions also feel slightly unresolved, particularly when it comes to politics ... Where this book shines is in its portraits of grief and uncertainty ... In this moment, Vigil Harbor transcends the mood of collective but cloistered worry and becomes a novel about what remains.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... [an] arresting new page-turner of a novel ... Readers familiar with Donoghue’s masterly 2010 best seller, Room, will recall the focused intensity she can bring to bear on constricted spaces ... unfolds at the pace of a thriller ... The narrow aperture of the maternity ward allows Donoghue to focus on one of the novel’s most compelling preoccupations: the lives and bodies of women ... Even in Julia’s slightly euphemistic voice, the sheer attention devoted to these descriptions functions as a kind of unadorned reverence for the work and pain and strength of women — and how the paths of their lives are so often defined by the workings of their bodies ... The scenes in the \'fever/maternity\' ward are so enthralling that the novel loses a bit of its fire — and realism — whenever it leaves that room, but these departures are thankfully rare. Donoghue seems most interested in the dramas of this one space — with which she manages to make clear the broader constrictions and injustices of an entire Irish society ... affecting.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... timely ... This intricately imagined novel is ostensibly set in the near future, though it sometimes reads less like prophecy and more like present-day journalism ... inventive... might be the only dystopian novel whose climax involves a tense, high-stakes baseball game ... The power of speculative fiction often lies in its ability to make us look at the world around us with fresh eyes. Mundane acts have a way of becoming extraordinarily beautiful when we are faced with the prospect of their vanishing. Here, baseball becomes a site of resistance, an emblem of humanity, an antidote to the automation and artificial intelligence that controls every other aspect of life in AutoAmerica ... a marvelously refreshing concept in a world that is otherwise dominated by algorithms ... a book that grows directly out of the soil of our current political moment, and much of the book’s unsettling pleasure lies in Jen’s ingenious extrapolation of contemporary problems ... Jen has such a gifted ear for the manipulative languages of tech, marketing and government that at times the sheer abundance of clever details threatens to overwhelm the stories of her characters. But perhaps this overabundance is part of the novel’s method, a way of swallowing the characters and the reader into AutoAmerica’s reality ... ultimately quite tender.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...sprawling but absorbing ... The emotional heart of the book belongs to their son, Wright, whose childhood Alcott renders with supreme tenderness ... As Alcott’s ambitious (if slightly overstuffed) book ranges over three decades of American history, the era’s defining events drift in and out of the lens. The reader can almost imagine leafing through a pile of old Life magazines ... the real energy of the novel is not in Alcott’s rendering of these events, but rather in shimmering, knife-sharp descriptions of small and often devastating moments of individual experience within those larger histories ... Some of the book’s most memorable sections offer glimpses of the period through the narrow aperture of everyday human longing, like the way Alcott masterfully captures Wright’s humble wish for the kind of middle-class American childhood his mother rails against.