MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Scibona is an observant, lyrical writer, and the strength of his images and musicality of his sentences are almost enough to carry the novel on their own ... These quotidian metaphors make the horrors of war more accessible, as do the highly specific, human details ... While [the protagonist\'s] constant self-sabotage and ascetic grimness are believable, given his experiences, it becomes difficult for the reader to invest in him emotionally. The plot grows numbing and predictable once we work out that any positive turn – a love interest, friendship, financial windfall, escape – will eventually result in anguish. Whenever the novel introduced a new character, I found myself awaiting their destruction.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)The novel moves fluidly between an omniscient narrator and a vast range of first- and close third-person perspectives, displaying Porter’s uncanny facility for voice ... Most striking is the novel’s keen understanding of history, not as a passive set of inevitable circumstances but as the actions of individuals, their choices limited or empowered: why people live in certain neighborhoods, take or refuse jobs, migrate, marry, even murder. Porter shows that it matters whether the encounters that define us happen in Venice Beach in 1986, in the \'only gay squat house in Berlin\' in the 1970s, on a deserted road in Buckner County, Georgia in 1966, or on that same road after its gentrification in the 1990s. The inclusion of photographs and artefacts, such as contemporaneous advertisements and book covers, along with the assured, journalistic detail brought to each scene, make these characters seem like real people. Rather than one family, they seem to make up a cross-section of human history, the novel an excerpt of that near infinite story. The reader is left with the impression Regina Porter could illustrate any other set of lives equally well. The Travelers is a rare debut that heralds what should be a long and promising career.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)This is a large, slow novel – long conversations are played out in full, character motivations are carefully explained, and we see multiple perspectives on the same situations, particularly as the past timeline catches up with the present – but the lucid, unobtrusive prose keeps the pages turning. Though the book makes frequent reference to its Chicago setting and marks out the years explicitly, one feels the Sorensons could almost live anywhere, at any time: their universe consists almost exclusively of each other, governed above all else by their interpersonal dynamics.
MixedThe RumpusShelter feels slightly out of step, a desperate howl from the half-generation between the straightforward, gendered culture clash of Jin’s generation and the progressive, gender-disrupting individuation of mine. The book’s gaze is fixed firmly backward, sons suffering for the sins of their fathers, tortured and hostile men begetting more of the same. There’s reason to hope this is becoming yesterday’s story, and the world is ready for something new.