PositiveThe Cleveland Plain DealerThe plot springs into action when Susan's troubled son, Zack, is arrested for throwing a pig's head into a Somali mosque in Shirley Falls. There is a large Somali population in Shirley Falls, and it's the divisive topic of much town talk. Zack is a scared, confused kid who did something wrong, but in short order the crime has gained national attention amid talk of ‘hate crimes’ and ‘terrorism.’ The siblings will meet, fight and meet again as they try to help Zack, and perhaps also learn some hard truths about each other. What Strout does best is capture those honest, often unpretty little moments, those politically incorrect thoughts and family cruelties. She understands and conveys the loneliness and isolation that occur in both families and communities, and explores the roles we all play in our families, and if we can ever escape our childhood labels.
RaveThe Cleveland Plain DealerWith writing so sharp you could stab your finger on it, Rules of Civility draws the reader into an exploration of love and timing, friendship and betrayal, class and money, all played out among brilliant dialogue and quick plotting … Brilliantly, Towles captures a specific era in pre-war Manhattan, burnished with the universals of youth and promise and the world awaiting. Rules of Civility certainly flashes a Dorothy Parker-ish zip, but what gives it soul is a hovering Fitzgerald-like maturity, at once pensive and poignant.
PositiveThe Cleveland Plain DealerWe learn in the very first two sentences of Everything I Never Told You that 'Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet.' However, in this beautiful and poignant story, hope becomes as much a character as any person in the Lee family ... The ironic, heartbreaking but perhaps inevitable flaw of this family is that its members can't tell each other what they really want and need. For the Lees, the usual family dynamics are also overlaid with problems of race ... She tackles the themes of family dynamics, gender and racial stereotyping, and the weight of expectations, all with insight made more powerful through understatement ...has an exact, sophisticated touch with her prose. The sentences are straightforward. She evokes emotions through devastatingly detailed observations, not with lazy adjectives.