RaveMinneapolis Star TribuneLively characters and a strong sense of time and place make this historical novel a rich delight ... Author Imogen Hermes Gowar displays an unflinching eye for the economic calculations permeating a culture in which everything from human flesh to mermaids is monetized ... It’s hard to believe that this brilliant and sure-footed work is a debut novel. Gowar’s feel for the spirit of the period is spot on ... a superb historical novel ... it richly rewards any reader willing to enter its world.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThe book is filled with funny, poignant and infuriating anecdotes about the marriage pressures the 'leftovers' face ... But Leftover in China is more than just a collection of fascinating anecdotes. Lake contextualizes her work with reference to other Asian countries as well as the United States and carefully grounds her narrative historically ... he result is a sympathetic but clear-eyed critique of 'the infinitely textured and complex set of sparring values, obligations, traditions and tensions that define modern China.'
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneSmile drifts, as memories do, in a curious spiral motion, picking up a scene, dropping it for another, then returning to the original from a slightly different perspective. The tale it tells is mesmerizing, not the least because of Doyle’s ability to blend humor and horror to remarkable emotional effect ... Fans of The Commitments and The Snapper will find many of the features they love in Smile: Doyle’s magical way with dialogue, his uncanny ability to condense whole paragraphs of description into a single telling phrase ... But Smile is a much darker novel, akin to The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, but, to my taste, much better: deeper, more psychologically astute, more gut-wrenchingly powerful. And that ending. Well, you’ll see what I mean.
PanThe Minneapolis Star TribuneMyths, omens, magic and faith are the frames through which the narrators make sense of their experience; every detail carries symbolic weight in this world, weight that ultimately drags like an anchor against their lives. The weight dragged against this reader, too. Hoffman creates a vividly detailed world that I found mesmerizing – for the first couple hundred pages. I tasted the salt, felt the heat of the desert, yearned for water, ached against injustice and cruelty, pondered the meaning of magic and omens. But ultimately the four narrators seemed less like real women than the four queens of a deck of cards, archetypes rather than characters, the details too repetitive and portentous.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneNot at all peaceful, not at all cozy, this novel. There is virtually no plot, only characters and themes, making The Dark Flood Rises feel at times more like an extended meditation (in places perhaps a bit overextended) than a novel ... escapes being unbearably depressing by the brilliance of its characterizations, the cleverness of its observations and the indomitable spirit of Fran, who reflects that 'old age itself is a theme for heroism. It calls upon courage.' This brave novel displays that courage.
PositiveThe Minneapolis StarAnyone familiar with the story’s author — and who isn’t familiar with Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates, at least? — can gain an extra layer of pleasure by trying to guess, before reading the story, how the author might be likely to handle it ... As is generally the case with anthologies, a few of the stories are rather disappointing or flat, but there are some absolute knockouts, too.
MixedThe Minneapolis StarDonoghue excels at depicting the sickroom: the erratic compression and expansion of time, the unique combination of tension, boredom, fear and confusion ... So many things are right in this novel that I wished — almost angrily — that a few things had been better, most particularly the dialogues in which characters tell each other things for no reason except that the reader needs to know them. And the ending struck me as contrived ... The bottom line: Read it. The important things will stay with you while the clumsy ones will fade from memory.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribunePears tries to subvert is even stronger in the [companion] app. I would recommend reading the print version, in which the narratives shed reciprocal light on one another as they accrete details together. It is much more fun to puzzle out how all the strands fit together than to read each one linearly, at least for this reader.