MixedNew York Times Book ReviewAs the plot spools out in a relatively staid order...things simply happen, and we move on. Through dialogue, we learn of the family’s ancestral fall from grace, offhand commentary about pigmentation and the anglicizing of names, and surprising admiration for local remnants of French and British colonizers. But neither dialogue nor narration gives way to the characters’ interiority ... For readers unfamiliar with Mauritius, this history is illuminating, the richness of detail showcasing some of the best writing in the book ... Read in our current moment, when American pursuit — glorification, even — of excess has resulted in one of the most pernicious societies in modern history, Vishnu’s heedless pining for the one percent feels, at best, problematic ... It’s satisfying to read such a vivid rendering of a world unfamiliar to many. For another, bearing witness to a migratory rise in status gives one a sense of optimism, even if the reality is much more complicated than the novel suggests. That may be enough for many readers, even as the deeper insights into humanity and its heterogeneity remain elusive.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... while Miller seeks the answer in a situation whose narratives are so familiar as to feel quotidian — romantic love, desperate to cross socioeconomic class — the novel’s setting, Haiti, may yet have something surprisingly new to say ... The real strength of this opening section lies not in the interiority of the characters or the chance of a surprise plot twist. Instead, interest and momentum emerge from the specificity of place Miller establishes around us: the daily rhythms of Haiti, the stark demands of a life lived amid capricious, grinding poverty, and the marvelous, salty exchanges that occur alongside it all ... Still, the novel’s arc is largely familiar: Boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, boy encounters the apparently insurmountable gulf of their class differences. The characters deepen some, but not in ways that truly drive the plot. Passion — almost entirely physical, it’s worth noting — yet wins the day. Anaya’s father intervenes, of course, and we wonder how the lovers will triumph; only once they do, the pace starts to flag. The novel’s perspective often appears troublingly traditional and masculine, Zo’s lovesick ambitions rendered in colonialist terms...But then there is a schism. A disaster occurs, truly harrowing in the scale and severity of its damage. Everything appears lost. Here the language is particularly arresting, its power at once direct and nameless; as elsewhere in the novel, Miller’s writing manages to be both passionate and economical, and when dialogue and physical scenes pop, they pop off. If the notes of drama here are occasionally struck too hard — in this scene’s climax, Zo is momentarily too superhuman — it’s nevertheless effective ... In the end there’s much that satisfies, not the least of which is bearing witness to tenderness and heroism, the depths of loneliness and peaks of romance — and, perhaps most important, the courage of an entire nation.