RaveChicago Review of BooksRichards combines the most satisfying elements of mysteries, thrillers, and literary fiction to create one of the most dynamic pictures of a coming-of-age story cut short by tragedy ... A novel with electricity in every word.
RaveChicago Review of BooksGabriel Krauze wastes not a single word getting to the action in his debut. Where many novelists hold their readers’ hands in the opening pages, slowly introducing them to the narrator, the world, and the characters that inhabit it, Who They Was instead pushes them face first and mid-sentence ... Who They Was reads as if you were listening to a close friend tell stories on a lazy afternoon. The novel unfolds episodically, often bound together not by a coherent timeline but by theme ... Who They Was is often reminiscent of another Booker Prize honoree, A Brief History of Seven Killings, as both are masterworks of voice and purposeful digressions, moving like verse while also knowing the exact moment to strike with an unsettling and unforgettable scene ... Who They Was is a powerful, challenging, and fearless debut from an author with a story to tell and the talent to tell it. And if you let yourself get swept away by this narrator, you may just find yourself reconceptualizing your reading process.
RaveFiction Writers ReviewClaire Boyles carries on the rich tradition of writers such as Annie Proulx and Pam Houston, whose fiction emerges from the sweeping western landscapes. Set across the backdrops of rural Nevada and Colorado, the stories in Site Fidelity are intimate and quiet, with many unfolding through internal character developments and striking, poetic glimpses of a world in flux ... she uses her settings in their fullest form. Place in Site Fidelity operates as both a noun and a verb, an active participant that is just as likely to leave its mark on the characters as they are to it; it’s metaphor, yes, but it’s also the hero, antagonist, and victim. Place is the history, culture, and way of life that grounds these characters and make their stories possible ... Site Fidelity is a delight to read at the sentence and individual story scale, but it truly becomes a marvel when viewed as a collection ... Claire Boyles’s Site Fidelity is both an impressive debut and necessary addition to climate fiction. Her collection reads simultaneously like poetry and history, fiction and nonfiction.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksOne of fiction’s greatest possibilities is how it can exist as something both intimate and grand, simultaneously exploring the life of a character and the world they are growing into, until one narrative unfolds into many. Bride of the Sea does just this, as the novel intertwines the dissolution and reconstruction of a single family with the evolving histories of the United States and Saudi Arabia. Eman Quotah deftly spans decades, miles, and cultures—and ultimately tells more stories within her 312 page debut than some authors tell across their entire careers ... The story comes alive in its descriptions, as every page welcomes readers with the sights, scents, and smells of a setting steeped in love and care. Quotah also uses the sensory to enhance every aspect of the novel, from characterization to the plot’s most climatic moments ... As Quotah moves through an extensive period between 1970 and 2018, it’s the narrative spaces, not her scenes, that truly accentuate her strengths as a writer ... Each chapter is an expression of growth, every moment of silence its own story. In its most shining moments, Bride of the Sea displays the breadth and scope of grand family epics such as Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, as we see a family move in rhythm with a larger history ... Quotah’s writing is beautiful, moving, and well-crafted, but the novel refuses to be tied up perfectly upon completion. Instead, the novel mirrors the messiness of life. Readers are presented with instances of detainment and profiling without justice, unhealed heartbreak, and reunions that can’t fully erase past harm. This is ultimately a story about one family and two nations growing apart and together, forever bound to one another. There can be no simple resolution. And that’s the point. Instead of happy endings, Quotah offers us insight.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksEverything readers love about Jeff VanderMeer is on full display ... Even for an author known for creating some of the most memorable and important worlds in contemporary fiction, his newest journey into the alt-Earth known as Aurora is remarkable. Horror and humor blend...we are treated to a truly engrossing adventure ... But perhaps the best praise I can offer is that at a time when I needed an escape more than anything, A Peculiar Peril gave me that feeling of reading my first fantasy novel as a kid.
RaveThe Kenyon Review... Meijer strips away the masked murderers and demons to return horror to its foundation—two characters intertwined by their desires, written to its surreal and, at times, deadly conclusion ... Meijer’s short stories operate under an atmosphere of threat, her close-to-the-bone writing style crafting a sparsity from which its most unsettling aspects emerge. Like the quiet, dread-filled tracking shot which proceeds a film’s jump scare, readers are willed to lean forward into fragmentary passages in order to parse every image. Precise in her language, Meijer lingers on depictions of the body, oftentimes at its most uncomfortable, yet the rest of the world remains shrouded ... Meijer carefully balances elements of tenderness and danger, creating a tone that tempts readers to imagine the potential for connection while anticipating the ever-ominous possibility of calamity ... proves itself to be a delicate balancing act between classic and reenvisioned horror. The collection maintains a precise attention to pace while removing the tropes that would prematurely tag itself as horror. While it is at times gruesome and shocking, it forgoes gratuitous gore. Meijer tilts the axis of her world ever so slightly, turning the familiar into the unsettling, characters into monsters, and genuine expressions of love into pain. The collection’s most unnerving moments, then, are those that most closely parallel the human while severing its humanness, creating a dark portrait of the recognizable and destructive desire for empathy. While this surreal shift becomes clear with time, the readers who first pick up Rag may find themselves in true shock of the horror that emerges from its beautiful prose and haunting characters.