RaveThe Washington PostThe clever ironies and turns on the property metaphor are matched only by the twists in the plot to come. A book that begins as a novel of class and then comes to encompass race by the middle transforms again into a waking nightmare ... And the narrator, who has moved deftly from character to character, investing us fully in the lives of all six occupants of the Airbnb, expands our viewpoint outward, to the woods, to the city, to the planet. And the news is not good ... the perfect title for a book that opens with the promise of utopia and travels as far from that dream as our worst fears might take us. It is the rarest of books: a genuine thriller, a brilliant distillation of our anxious age, and a work of high literary merit that deserves a place among the classics of dystopian literature.
RaveThe Washington Post... shrewd, intricately plotted...its point of view moving deftly from one to the next every few pages ... With all the intersecting perspectives, past-action leaps, socio- and geopolitical intrigue, and the need to contextualize modern Istanbul, the novel can feel a bit labyrinthine. But...there’s something of Graham Greene, too, in the insights and authority on foreign affairs, the combination of moral complexity with entertainment. Ackerman is the rare American novelist who goes to the world’s flash points and achieves what Peter considers the point of art: \'emotional transference,\' the ability of the artist to transmit his understanding and feelings to a stranger.
RaveThe Washington PostDays of Distraction is written in half-page to page-long blocks ... This mosaic structure, combining tesserae of research with narrative episodes, perfectly reflects the moment. The story is fractured, like our attention, our nation, our relationships; the information looks like the snippets we consume: Facebook posts, tweets, Google results. But for all its formal interplay and textual shifts, the novel is also, somehow, a cohesive, thoroughly absorbing read. It’s a mixed marriage of new forms and old that captures modern life then shapes it into something artistically abiding. The unifying element is point of view: By creating such a smart, thoughtful, funny, observant narrator, and taking us on a familiar arc of leaving home, contending with new surroundings, reconnecting with the past and negotiating a crossroads, Chang achieves the opposite effect of distraction culture ... This is an immersive, emotionally honest novel that thinks through our era’s complexities, histories and divisions; it wanders into the gray areas, and wonders where the path forward might be.
PositiveThe Washington Post... a book that pleases people who read two books a month and people who read two books a year ... Maum convincingly inhabits the thoughts of her protagonist, Richard Haddon, as he stumbles through his crisis, keenly portraying the emotional and physical frustrations that lead him to stray ... I couldn’t help but feel as if a screenwriter of broad comedies had hijacked 70 pages of the book ... Down the stretch, Maum returns to her art, too. She is abundantly gifted — funny, open-hearted, adept at bringing global issues into the personal sphere. Though her novel is an uneven marriage of the literary and the popular, she is certainly capable of making the relationship work and eventually creating that rare thing: a book for everyone.
Rao Pingru, Trans. by Nicky Harman
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleRao Pingru had dabbled in watercolors after his retirement from a Shanghai gear factory, but when his wife of 60 years, Meitang, died in 2008, he began to paint, at age 87, picture after picture of their lives together, as a way to capture his recollections and cope with his loss ... For all of their suffering, however, this couple represents an exemplar of lifelong companionship. Meitang’s letters to her husband, which serve as a coda to the book, are quotidian treasures. Rao’s plain, charming stories, and especially his witty, evocative, beautiful illustrations—handmade by a nonagenarian—are testament to the resilience and endurance of love.
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe Only Story reads at first like other books in the Barnes canon, in the way it combines complicated relationships with a limpid, unfussy style, brilliant wit with sorrow, an obsession with love and its shelf life, and a commitment not only to great storytelling but also to exploring how stories are told ... the novel plunges into darker, sadder places than Barnes’ work often goes ... Perhaps recognizing this, Barnes shifts to the second-person point of view, and the reader is addressed, engaged, even made to feel complicit. This makes up for the occasional repetitiveness, and Susan’s collapse ultimately feels like a necessary part of the lesson Paul must learn: that more often than not love doesn’t last, and the most ardent believers can spend a lifetime trying to understand why.
RaveSan Francisco ChronicleThis is nature writing that goes beyond pretty description; how the characters respond emotionally to the landscape is what makes the prose transcendent...But his greatest gift, what makes Rick Bass one of the very best writers we have, is his understanding of the soft hearts within even the hardest people.