RaveThe GazetteBeautifully written and expectantly structured, All My Goodbyes weaves together the narrator’s various memories and trials in a pattern not beholden to geography or linear time. This unusual juxtaposition of stories and quick slips of memory results in some surprising emotional punches, as well as larger questions surrounding the nature of memory and our human desire for connection. A novel that is both scientific in its distance and philosophical in its insight, All My Goodbyes is a marvelous, introspective work.
PositiveThe Gazette... Buttigieg writes astutely about real issues facing our communities, such as the proverbial brain-drain of talent and youth; the economic effects of the loss of manufacturing jobs, and how to continue building community across racial, economic and religious lines ... While Buttigieg isn’t stingy with bureaucratic details, he’s equally generous with personal and narrative descriptions, making even the most banal scenes engaging and memorable, such as his conversations with Democratic Party Chairman, Butch Morgan, who wields a landline phone like a weapon. A thoughtful, sincere memoir about one man’s love for his Indiana hometown, Shortest Way Home proves that one needn’t be connected, or a certain age, or of a certain background, to make a difference in a community.
Yukio Mishima Trans. by Andrew Clare
PositiveThe Gazette[Mishima\'s] influence and artistry continue to this day ... while the novel is structured to increase the tension, readers may have difficultly following the disjointed narrative, especially in the opening chapters, as the prologue details events that occur after — not before — the main action, and chapter 2 serves as a flashback. Still, The Frolic of the Beasts is worth the extra work at the start — especially because the ending sent this reader straight back to the prologue, which read very differently the second time around ... A philosophical work not for the faint of heart...a tragic, haunting work from a master.
Guadelupe Nettel, Trans. by Rosalind Harvey
MixedThe GazetteAfter the Winter, a mesmerizing new novel from Guadalupe Nettel follows the lives of two solitary people as they slowly make their way back into the world: Claudio, a Cuban immigrant living in New York; and Cecilia, a Mexican woman pursuing postgraduate study in Paris. Told in alternating perspectives, this philosophical story juxtaposes the pleasures of solitude alongside our human need to connect and belong, resulting in a novel filled with surprising turns and revelations about just what it means to be human. At its core, After the Winter is a love story — just not the sort we’re used to ... At times a difficult read, yes. But like life itself, After the Winter is worth it.
Bernice L. McFadden
RaveThe GazetteHorrific, yes, but McFadden gives readers a strong foothold at the start: the book opens with Abeo in her 30s, living independently, a world away in New York City. We know that she makes it, a truth that transforms this novel into a gripping page turner, as readers are anxious to learn about her escape and her path toward building a new life ... Beautifully written and expertly structured, Praise Song for the Butterflies includes plenty of twists, such as surprises about Abeo’s lineage, as well as delicate explorations of the gray areas that surface for Abeo—and her family—when she returns to her former life. Abeo’s time in New York is particularly well-drawn, as McFadden doesn’t oversimplify the difficulties of recovery and demonstrates (particularly through Femi) the importance of patience, understanding and unconditional love. Perhaps one of the best books of the year, Praise Song for the Butterflies is a stunning, brief portrait that humanizes the plight of those in ritual servitude. It’s a fantastic work from a gifted author.
Hanne Ørstavik, Trans. by Martin Aitken
PositiveThe GazetteSet during the days of landline telephones and music videos, Ørstavik carefully blends the narratives so the words and actions of one character reflect or bleed into the other, demonstrating on a structural level how close Jon and his mother are emotionally, and at times physically, throughout the long winter’s night. Without spoiling the ending, it’s safe to say the constant reminders of connection – and near misses – make the ending all the more heartbreaking. What could be a simple family story is instead filled with foreboding and anxiety, showcasing the marvels and dangers pulsating just below the surface in our everyday lives. Longing and hopefulness fills these brief pages, leaving readers with a sense of wonder for the average: how a day can be so filled with newness and potential, with menace and tragedy.
Julián Herbert, Trans. by Christina MacSweeney
PositiveThe Cedar Rapids Gazette\"Tomb Song is more than an elegy, more than a meditation. Herbert takes a deep dive into an emotional, interconnected story on death, family, love and ambition, resulting in a work that is at once personal and universal ... The book — like Julian, like his mother, like their relationship — is messy, but given the careful, poetic language and musical paragraphs, it’s clear the leaps and transitions between narratives, times and countries, are intentional, meant to mimic the reflective turmoil that comes when experiencing death for the first time ... a powerful, bittersweet debut.\
RaveThe Iowa Gazette\"...an engrossing tale of identity, mental illness and spirituality ... If it sounds like there’s a lot going on in this novel, there is, but Emezi’s careful structuring and poetic language provides a pleasing balance to keep us stabilized as we reach toward higher planes. Reading Freshwater, then, is akin to letting oneself over to a luminous experience; we are enveloped fully from page one, and leave the novel feeling transformed.\