MixedNew YorkYou can appreciate and admire Marilynne Robinson’s beautifully evoked novel if you don’t share her religious values: You can even be moved by it. But unless you are a believing Christian with strong fundamentalist leanings, you cannot truly understand Gilead … Robinson might make John Ames open to competing versions of Christianity; she might make him confess a minor spiritual weakness from time to time. But he is—refreshingly—an almost entirely reliable narrator, whose religious faith unifies and justifies Robinson’s story … Despite Gilead’s insistence on the divine splendor of God’s creation, Robinson does not allow her characters to exist outside narrow moral dilemmas.
MixedThe Los Angeles TimesThe Corrections is not a masterpiece; it is a second-rate work with first-rate moments and ambitions. And even more than a work of art, The Corrections is a significant cultural document … Franzen isn't afraid to try to inhabit the most diverse kinds of people, from heiresses to nurses to gangsters to Norwegian tourists. And he has to be one of the funniest novelists at work now … Franzen is unable to regulate the flow of the literal through his novel...The unexpected result of Franzen's literalness is that he associates the ‘real’ with whatever thought comes into his head. It is as if he refuses to surrender his authorial rights and disdains his imagined world. This novel's harsh tonal shifts, never justified by their context, are like the ringing of a cell phone throughout a concert.