PositiveThe New York TimesAlyan takes command of all the senses to portray [Beirut] before, during and after the war, its beaches packed with oiled-up bathers, its smoke-filled bars and steamy street corners. For those familiar with the setting, this novel will dredge up long-held memories. For those who’ve never known it, Alyan plants the riches of the city with stealthy precision, making the maddening conundrum of Beirut yours, whether you want it or not ... Through such lyrical language [...] Alyan, a Palestinian-American living in Brooklyn, marries her trades as a poet and clinical psychologist, unspooling inner monologues and memories to exhaustion, sometimes leaving me similarly spent ... For stretches, I felt trapped in a room with arguing siblings, my patience growing thin. And some revelations delivered more than others ... When you finish the last page of Alyan’s book, turn back to the start and reread the first entry, the story of the young man’s death. It’s nearly impossible to believe that he was ever a stranger or that the shock wave of his demise would reach so far into the future — a realization that might complete the story’s circle but doesn’t quite fill the void at the center of the family, a space that shaped them all.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...in this memoir, questions beget more questions, and few are sufficiently answered. Trauma cannot be tied with a tidy bow ... Vanasco’s prose sometimes feels like a stream-of-consciousness seesaw, leaving readers disoriented and frustrated. But nowhere near as disoriented and frustrated as Vanasco feels as she bends over backward to comfort and shield Mark, to thank him for talking with her ... Understanding the enemy is part of her motive, but it’s not the crux. \'The point of this project is to show what seemingly nice guys are capable of,\' she writes ... [Mark\'s] story dominates the book, but other men have also violated Vanasco. These stories are just as gutting ... I’m not a perfect victim, Vanasco confesses. There’s no such thing. And that fear of not being believed is what scares so many into silence.