MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIf you get nothing else from this book, you will realize what a truly astonishing creature you are shooing out of your way on the sidewalk or cursing for crapping all over your car ... has some affecting scenes and some wonderful turns of phrase ... But there are also some wrong turns, phrasing-wise, in some cases so many in one sentence that readers could be forgiven for just giving up and moving on ... Frank seems to enjoy the people with whom he actually does talk, but you have to wonder if it occurred to him how few of them, given the opportunity, would ever reach the end of a book like this one ... Whether or not you enjoy this kind of prose is a matter of personal taste, but the author’s talent is not in question. Frank gets great quotes from the characters he interviews, and the book’s structure — searching for the mysterious Mr. Lester — keeps the story moving and offers a payoff in the end that is disappointing, but in all the best ways. The material in general — ghost towns, corporate cruelty, the centuries-old relationship between humans and a species almost magical in its abilities — is fabulous ... The problem is that there is not enough of it. Somewhere in this manuscript is an outstanding New Yorker-style piece of perhaps 10,000 words on pigeons and diamond mining, but successfully extending that to book length would have required more reporting than we get here. What we do get is not really reportage, in any case. Frank seems to know this; a running joke throughout the book is his failure to show up to interviews with an actual notebook and being forced instead to scribble on receipts or whatever else is at hand. Nor does the material really work as a book-length essay along the lines of Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk; themes hinted at early on — including the author’s grief over his wife’s lost pregnancy — are never fully developed. I would call this travel writing, which is nothing to be ashamed of for a writer with literary aspirations — we have all read travel writers so literate that their work transcends the genre. But we have all eaten thin soup, too, and know that nothing can really save it — not even page after page filled with allotropes and phenakistoscopes.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... [a] finely observed profile ... As a biographer, Malarkey has her own ace in the hole: She is Rahr’s first cousin. She spent her childhood summers following her subject up and down the banks of the Deschutes ... Rahr’s passion for salmon is contagious, and Malarkey channels it well in informative chapters about the intimate connection between salmon and the rivers they inhabit ... Malarkey is a novelist by trade, and it shows in the book’s many finely drawn scenes, especially those set in Russia. She doesn’t quite sustain the narrative tension for the book’s duration, however, and there is a good deal of digression into Rahr’s decades-long organizing efforts at home and abroad. Some editors would have asked an author to trim this material to keep the story moving, but Malarkey’s apparently didn’t, and in the end I was glad. Nature lovers looking for an easier read might prefer a travelogue like last year’s Kings of the Yukon, Adam Weymouth’s well-received account of paddling across Alaska in search of king salmon. But those who choose Malarkey’s more ambitious approach will be rewarded with insights into how activism and organizing shape public policy, into how things change.
RaveNew York Times Book Review\"American Prison reprises [Baurer\'s] page-turning narrative [from Mother Jones], and adds not only the fascinating back story of CCA, the nation’s first private prison company, but also an eye-opening examination of the history of corrections as a profit-making enterprise, of which the advent of the private prisons that now house 8 percent of American inmates is only the latest chapter ... Bauer is a generous narrator with a nice ear for detail, and his colleagues come across as sympathetic characters, with a few notable exceptions. In a wonderful twist, he interviews a number of them after his deception is eventually exposed. How much loyalty does $9 per hour buy? About as much as you’d imagine; most are all too happy to help pull the curtain back on CCA.\
PanThe New York Times Book ReviewSlater’s reporting covers territory that has been well mined by other reporters. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, if the book were especially well written or offered an original take on the story. But Slater is an uneven narrator ... Some of the book’s scenes are undeniably gripping ... Yet Slater’s book, landing as it does in the midst of an election season in which immigrants are once again being demonized, seems destined to further muddy the waters ... the best moments are mostly in the epilogue, in which we encounter a much more reflective Cardona.