RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleIt is humbling to read Grimmette’s calm, clear voice, so accomplished that even the women in the shelter where she seeks refuge when fleeing from Joel ask her for career advice. How could anyone fail to save a person of such substance? ... But even as tragedy unfolds, Trethewey herself is being forged into an artist. Readers who are now choosing books to learn more about the Black experience in America may consider prioritizing Memorial Drive for its compact but beautifully observed musings on race, family, love and even national monuments. There are no easy lessons here, but the poet provides a great gift by helping us understand that a journey so deeply marked by tragedy is one that can continue.
Isabel Allende, Trans. by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson
RaveSan Francisco Chronicle[A] sweeping saga ... Allende aims to explore something deeper about love than free and raw passion, though Petal has plenty of spicy pages and couples who yearn for each other ... At present, our culture seems to cherish stories that examine the cyclical rise of our darkest impulses ... Isabel Allende makes a similar point in a real-world way ... For while A Long Petal of the Sea is a historical love story penned in the lush and propulsive prose familiar to Allende’s millions of fans worldwide, it is also suffused with an additional noble and philosophical consciousness that feels excitingly new.
MixedSan Francisco ChronicleIn the city of City of Girls, girls are safe, free to express themselves and celebrate everything girly ... Gilbert spares her heroine anything resembling trauma ... [there is an] almost forceful generosity Gilbert shows her characters as they descend into tragedy. I won’t spoil the dramatic fulcrum of the plot. But I will say that in the aftermath of both Vivian’s \'mistake\' and the war, the characters are, to a man, forgiven and humanized. For those new to Gilbert’s work, some of the most dramatic moments in the novel may feel overly mechanistic. Is Vivian’s faux pas fully motivated? Likewise, is the pathos of the late-in-life love relationship convincing, or does it feel more like an idea grafted into the story to prove the Gilbert ethos that love is good even when unconventional? Still, the lush prose and firm belief in love that suffuses City of Girls will be a cool place to hide out as we enter a heated summer season of contentious presidential politics.
Yoko Tawada, Trans. by Susan Bernofsky
RaveThe San Francisco Chronicle\"...[a] profoundly imaginative novel ... Memoirs of a Polar Bear refuses to become a shrill statement on displacement, or a cloying book about successfully fitting in. By maintaining a control over both the surreal quality of the situation — a wide-eyed polar bear famous for her autobiography — and the frank voice of an animal, Tawada instead imparts how bizarre is the world of man, the only animal in the animal kingdom who can lie ... Tawada uses her singular ability to probe the boundaries between culture, language and life. Packed with scenes of snow, cold and dark, Memoirs of a Polar Bear is a compact novel, perfect for guiding the imagination inward during this dark time of the year.\
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleIt is a credit to Hatton’s intelligence that her depiction of Margot’s relationship with Ricketts is neither overly sentimental nor polemical ... With intelligent, painterly prose, Hatton adds the story of Margot to the cast of characters who inhabited Cannery Row, suggesting that it is love that ultimately best connects past to present. To read Monterey Bay is to be invited to go back in time, and to join the party.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesThe compact narrative proceeds in a series of connected sketches that feel at once breathless and unhurried; Sada is a master of controlled casualness mixed with weighty philosophical questions.