PositiveTIME...a stirring blend of memoir, letters to his young sons and meditations on the humbling nature of parenthood ... It’s a work that’s the spiritual inheritor of John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley and Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country. Like those, Dad’s Maybe Book dwells on the state of America and American life. He takes absolutism to task, finds qualifications for his own pacifism and considers the paradox of a moral society that allows for forever war.At first glance, it might be easy to consider Dad’s Maybe Book a literary turn on the how-to parenting manual. That’d be a mistake. This is a layered, contemplative book, one interested in the bones of America, in the lifeblood of what it means to be human.
Claire Vaye Watkins
RaveThe Rumpus...an exceptional debut short fiction collection by Claire Vaye Watkins. A writer of great precision and greater restraint, Watkins is a natural storyteller whose material enriches that gift rather than engulfing it ... This unblinking exploration of memory and loss also paces the most affecting story of the collection, \'The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past,\' originally published in The Paris Review Hope and possibility invade a brothel outside of Vegas, defying both logic and stereotype in the process. But like all things that linger too long under the orange Nevada sun, it cannot last – leading to as memorable a conclusion as I’ve read in short fiction ... Proud and ever-enduring, Nevada now has a book to match its spirit. And one doesn’t have to be from the Battleborn state to recognize and appreciate literature that resonates like this.
Jonathan A Rodden
PositiveLibrary JournalRodden...looks beyond gerrymandering and voter suppression to offer a nuanced understanding of the Democratic Party\'s inability to maintain majority representation despite consistently winning popular votes ... Rodden\'s well-researched narrative offers critical insights ... Many will find this helpful in explaining how the Republican and Democratic parties have grown so partisan, and may also serve to illuminate potential reforms that could alleviate urban-rural polarization ... A timely and critical work that explains the ramifications of operating a winner-take-all election approach in U.S. state and federal districting.
C J Chivers
RaveThe Wall Street JournalLike his previous work, The Fighters immerses readers in know-how and gravitas, bringing together a collection of war testimonies by infantry grunts, fighter pilots and hospital corpsmen. The battle fragments can’t provide a full picture of the wars they portray, but together they do form something else: a dark and honest reckoning with just what it is we’ve done since that empty blue-skied day was filled with smoke nearly two decades ago ... Mr. Chivers crafts a vast and absorbing mosaic ... Themes of betrayal and unintended consequence serve as the book’s marrow ... Still, acts of great courage rise in The Fighters ... His writing shines with careful understatement and a muted irony ... And when Mr. Chivers does let it rip stylistically, you notice ... This is not a book that details the strategies of generals and presidents ... I’m more than sympathetic to this approach but still found myself wondering if some strategic perspective would have broadened the book ... With breadth and raw truth, The Fighters lays bare just how exacting and brutal that duty [of fighting in U.S. wars] has been.
Bernardo Atxaga, Trans. by Margaret Jull Costa
PositiveThe Washington PostHis genre-blurring Nevada Days neither loves nor scorns Reno so much as mulls it over slowly, deliberately ... Atxaga’s such an engaging witness ... I found refreshing Atxaga’s bemusement toward military ceremony. It’s honest. It’s thoughtful. It’s what our country desperately needs in this era of star-spangled pomp and fake patriots ... Nevada Days serves as an inverse retelling of that western classic, and through the precision of Atxaga’s language and the truths about Nevada and America he brings forth, it certainly meets the standard set by its predecessor.
RaveThe Daily BeastThis postmodern swirl of inner substance, yellow ribbons, and good(ish) intentions is at the core of Ben Fountain’s brilliant Bush-era novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk … There’s the eponymous Specialist William Lynn, the virginal, Silver Star–earning eddy of a literary hero, a local boy willing to both dry-hump a Cowboys cheerleader and philosophize about the military-civilian divide in the same hour, if not the exact same moment … This divide becomes a chasm over the course of the novel, from the shallow pomp and ceremony surrounding Bravo’s arrival to the hundreds of ‘Atta Boys and back slaps to a locker-room encounter with outsized Cowboys players who want to ‘Cap some Muslim freaks’ for a couple weeks, but not for the years of service the military requires—they have football careers to consider, after all.
MixedThe Washington PostRogan delineates the journey from outrage to action to doubt, contrasting mundane routines with the philosophical dilemmas of ordinary people. Vested interests, including those of threatening policemen and a consoling pastor, make it difficult to do the right thing, as do complications resulting from every choice ... While the pages set in Iraq are exact and skillfully rendered, the same can’t be said of the home-front chapters. The soldiers become fuzzy proxies for Rogan to convey messages of outrage rather than fully realized young men hellbent on finding their way back.