RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe title of the collection strikes an uncharacteristically mannered note — and belongs, curiously, to the one story set in the North — but it does convey the book’s underlying stance: given the state of things, staying alive is something a reasonable person might have to be talked into ... Love is the dark matter in these stories, visible mostly in some negative form, as in the title story, which documents the breakdown of a marriage in a nameless, snow-filled city ... The collection’s last story, \'Shadow on a Weary Land,\' may be the most accomplished and memorable, with flashes of wit alongside its profundity ... Each of the eight stories in the collection is a small feat of craftsmanship, remarkably consistent in pacing and tone. But there’s a wildness under the surface, a willingness to hurtle past the boundaries of everything polite, that calls to mind masters of the unsettling short story like Mary Gaitskill, or even Alice Munro.
RaveSalonRusso gives us a panoramic yet nuanced view of the imaginary town of Empire Falls, Maine, showing how the history of one powerful family can become the history of a place. It’s the kind of big, sprawling, leisurely novel, full of subplots and vividly drawn secondary characters, that people are always complaining is an endangered species … There are glimpses of romantic happiness in Empire Falls, and a few stable long-term bonds, but mainly the novel suggests that people are best off looking elsewhere for consolation. One of those places is religion, and Russo gamely takes on the unfashionable job of showing the emotional pull that the Roman Catholic Church has on someone like Miles. Family ties, if worn lightly, can also be lifesaving, especially when relatives find some shared purpose.
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewJoe shows how a seemingly isolated crime has many roots. In the process, this young boy will experience a heady jolt of adolescent freedom and a brutal introduction to both the sorrows of grown-up life and the weight of his people’s past … Sexuality seethes underneath every plot twist, offering bliss and violence as equal possibilities. Much of the novel’s suspense comes as Joe and his friends make their own first forays into the mysteries of sex, eager to be initiated into its secrets, even as they search for a man who has committed a terrible sexual crime.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewAs Stein’s people rummage through their faulty memories, they talk the way human beings actually talk — heavy on score-settling, gossip and hearsay. It’s at times almost unbelievable what they are willing to say ... Perhaps the most surprising thing that emerges from this riveting book is a glimpse of what seems like deep truth.