RaveThe New York Times Book Review\'What just happened?\' I found myself asking aloud upon coming to the end of The Earthspinner, Anuradha Roy’s fifth novel. For several days after reading, I held on to a pinching disappointment — the novel closes without resolve, and I found myself returning to the book, wondering why Roy had built a world of such rich possibilities just to leave so many unrealized. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of what would become a complicated journey with the novel, leading me to a deep gratitude for this work ... Subtlety is a trademark for Roy, whose novels have been praised and prized for their understated elegance. She’s particularly adept at using past trauma and geographic displacement to illuminate her characters’ present ... While a tale of star-crossed lovers is hardly unique, the specificities here — a ceramist and a calligrapher in 1970s India — feel fresh, and Roy’s ability to channel her characters’ inner lives is as thrilling as ever. At the same time, gluttons for plot, especially those who appreciate stakes high enough to raise pulses, might find themselves in the same predicament I was, unsure of why Roy set up this perfect confrontation and played it out so quietly ... And this, I will admit, is what initially rankled me. What does it mean when a novel’s resolve refuses to make sense of the trauma at its center? When a book’s conflict feels unmet by its conclusion? I have been surprised to find my dissatisfaction bending me back toward the book, prompting me to reconsider the nature of exile, of aging, of shared trauma, of what we carry into our present day from a past that did not protect us ... In this way, the novel feels like waking from a long, unsettling, unshakable dream. Yes, we understand it’s just a dream, but we also can’t help feeling the depth of a dream’s persuasion, the way certain truths might later clamber from the subconscious to the surface, changing us. Which is all to say, my love for The Earthspinner did not come in a neat package, but rather from the way it elicits a kind of confusion that turns into preoccupation; how it requires one to hold in one’s mind the story’s many complicated pieces, even after the novel reaches its end; the way it ignites an obsessive wondering that must run its course before a dreamer can wake, body facing an unforeseen direction, ready to take on a different kind of work.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review[Bennett's] ferociously moving debut lives up to its title, never once allowing readers a simplistic view of the maternal pain at its center ... Bennett sets up a delicious trick by allowing the mothers their say and then immediately shifting to the perspective of a single character ... Despite Bennett’s thrumming plot, despite the snap of her pacing, it’s the always deepening complexity of her characters that provides the book’s urgency.