Priscilla Gilman is a former professor of English literature at both Yale University and Vassar College and the author of the acclaimed memoir <em>The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy</em> (Harper). Gilman writes regularly for publications including the Daily Beast, the New York Times, Huff Post Parents, and O: the Oprah Magazine, and speaks frequently at schools, conferences, and organizations about parenting, education, and the arts. Find Pricilla on Twitter @PriscillaGilman
PositiveThe Boston Globe\"Elizabeth McCracken’s first novel in 18 years, Bowlaway, is that most improbable of literary phenomena: a buoyant, joyful, rollicking yarn of sadness and loss ... McCracken’s gloriously vibrant and boisterously surprising narrative voice is one of the great triumphs of Bowlaway. Over and over, similes and metaphors pop up to form odd and original, yet precise and perfect shapes ... These are linguistic gems, little flashes of preciousness lighting up the text. And they give the book a slightly maniacal momentum, as though anything could be reconfigured into material for a funny comparison. Here the style is in keeping with its increasingly runaway plot ... With all of this skill and charm, however, Bowlaway somehow doesn’t move profoundly in the way McCracken’s earlier work does ... But if Bowlaway is never thoroughly engrossing or wrenchingly emotional, it is a tour de force of magnificent sentences, arrestingly strange images, and penetrative observations. Swerving madly in all directions, with a sparkly surface trying to light up its darkness, Bowlaway is like a train off the tracks: breathtaking as a flash-bulb, breaking new ground, but not reaching any destination.\
MixedThe Boston Globe\"Anuradha Roy’s new novel, All the Lives We Never Lived, is replete with the author’s characteristic virtues: an unerring eye for meaningful detail, vividly sensual descriptions of place, the ability to dwell in uncertainty, a luminous empathy for outsiders, misfits, and anyone struggling with limitation, constraint, and oppression ... The letters [from Myshkin\'s mother]... feel like a narrative misfire. The epistolary form — faithfully reproduced in the text — necessarily leads to laborious repetition ... As the redundancies pile up, the novel’s mystery and magic get crowded out ... Even more problematic are numerous and lengthy excerpts from a novel by the real-life Bengali poet Maitreyi Devi about the life of a woman much like Gayatri (Roy herself translated it). Roy was clearly taken by the striking parallels to her own work, but we don’t need them; they distract rather than sonorously chime ... Despite its structural flaws and its gradual loss of emotional power, All The Lives We Never Lived’ is admirable, impressive, intelligent.\
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen
MixedThe Boston GlobeA chilling and creepy prologue...establishes a hallucinatory mood. Harbingers of disaster mount. The tone is detached, wry, a blend of whimsy and profundity, matter-of-fact reporting and dreamy meditation. And many of the familiar Murakami preoccupations are present: a middle-aged male protagonist adrift and haunted by trauma and lost love, vinyl records, lonely men yearning for connection and transcendence, existential musings, talking creatures ... These delicate, amorphous, even insubstantial materials of identity provide a richly tenuous ground for Murakami’s obsessive inversions ...
In this book, however, Murakami seems to have lost a bit of his conjuror’s dexterity. Those ineffable effects, relying on sophisticated and probably instinctual balances of one invisible force against another, fail when things become unsteady, when the conductor falls a fraction behind the beat. At times the book reads like a literature graduate student’s fever dream. Other sections feel like a history textbook. The counterpoise of humor and poignancy so crucial to Murakami’s other works feels awkward. Halfway through, the plot runs out of steam and invention ... Killing Commendatore’ seems a hanging curveball, among the many darting sliders and knuckleballs of Murakami’s previous works.
PositiveThe Boston Globe...a rollicking, uproariously funny, bitingly satiric yet also warm and big-hearted novel ... But Barry is no simple caricature ... A few of the comic subplots, especially the one involving a crack rock, strain the limits of credulity, even for Shteyngart’s absurd universe, and homoerotic elements to Barry’s relationships with several men feel distracting ... Lake Success feels both linguistically fecund and emotionally robust. Zingers abound, but so do genuinely touching moments.
RaveThe Boston GlobeDetermined to narcotize her pain and drug herself into oblivion, the narrator finds a psychiatrist in the phone book. Dr. Tuttle, a brilliant comic creation, dispenses unhinged bromides and a raft of prescriptions with shocking yet welcome alacrity ... Like Thoreau at Walden Pond or Bartleby preferring \'not to,\' Moshfegh’s narrator is in flight from a world that has been too much with her. She mercilessly exposes the falseness of our representations, where identity is curated ... With her disastrously bad decisions, her lack of any conventional ambition, her misanthropy, our \'somnophile\' narrator will be off-putting for many readers. But her bracing self-awareness, mordant humor, and flashes of vulnerability endear her to us. She’s appalling, hilarious, and, finally, wise. A profoundly idiosyncratic heroine becomes a universal figure of alienation, an archetypal quester in search of \'a great transformation.\'
PositiveThe Boston Globe\"Of the three novels, Kudos is the most insular and self-referential, in large part a meditation on the nature of publishing and publicity, literary fame, and the value and worth of literature itself ... one of the most brilliant aspects of this novel is the way it uncovers the analogies between imaginative productions and \'real\' life and the way the two can mix and merge. Filled with reflections on authenticity and falseness, Kudos lays bare the theatricality of ordinary actions and the difficulty of distinguishing real from pretend ... The novel, and trilogy, end rather disappointingly, with a final scene whose black comedy isn’t as resonant or funny as one might have wished. But the one flat note emphasizes how unerring the rest has been. These are deeply intelligent works that cast a hypnotic spell.\
MixedThe Boston GlobeAnn Hulbert shares the intriguing but cautionary tales of 15 exceptionally gifted children. The cast includes many types: virtuoso musicians, math whizzes, chess champion Bobby Fischer, movie star Shirley Temple, celebrated child writers of the 1920s, computer programmers of the ’60s and ’70s, autistic savants, and offspring of ‘Tiger’ parents … Off the Charts contains both biographical sketches of these figures and Hulbert’s analysis of their meanings, but it separates the two kinds of work rather abruptly. Biography fills the main chapters, interpretation the book’s prologue and epilogue. The effect is notably disjointed … She resolves to tell the stories ‘as unsentimentally, and unsensationally, as possible,’ but that restraint comes at the cost of emotional vividness and poignancy. But if the prose is aloof, it’s nonetheless clear that an ethical passion animates Hulbert’s work.
RaveThe Boston GlobeThese are stories about fear, what engenders it, how it is magnified, mitigated, or aggrandized into something at once annihilating and sublime. Insight is partial, transport ephemeral but resonantly strange. Uncanny moments of honesty or 'bright rawness' stud the experiences of Hunt’s characters like flashing gems. Hunt is by turns hilarious, wry, wrenching, and lyrical. Her ability to make a deft turn from the comic to the poignant is remarkable, her humaneness sometimes incongruous but never in doubt. For all their eeriness, their unwavering, unrelenting confrontation with defeat, disappointment, and despair, the ultimate effect of the stories in The Dark Dark is inspiriting, nourishing, and finally comforting ... Hunt’s subtlety of vision, her embrace of her panoply of oddballs and misfits, her willingness to make leaps of logic and association in order to link diverse phenomena — these virtues of empathy make her darkness, against every grain, a place of original and truly radical connectedness.
RaveThe Boston GlobeDani Shapiro has written several courageous and searing memoirs...She has never written anything as raw, dark, or brave as Hourglass ... Hourglass is not an unflawed work...But for the most part she gives us a gorgeous, poetic stay against loss and confusion ... Hourglass is a stalwart witness to the erosions of time’s tides that, in being stalwart, it also wishes to stand against.
RaveThe Boston Globe...a twisty, chilly, exquisitely written, and tautly suspenseful exploration of big ideas in the guise of a psychological thriller ... no one — neither callow one-percenters nor those who protest their excesses — is immune from Lasdun’s witheringly satiric gaze ... Lasdun’s prose is both lapidary and hypnotic.
RaveThe Boston GlobeThe opening chapter is a tour-de-force, as Aitkenhead narrates in present tense, slowly, devastatingly how Tony died ... no one who reads her brave and eloquent book will ever forget endearing Tony or their incandescent love story.
RaveThe Boston GlobeThat Gaitskill has given not only herself a voice but also the husband, the child, and the child’s mother, in equal measure, speaks to her extraordinary artistic achievement here...Bracing in its rigorous truth-seeking, subtle and capacious in its moral vision, Gaitskill’s work feels more real than real life and reading her leads to a place that feels like a sacred space.
PositiveThe Boston Globe...an intriguing mystery with clues, suspense, enigmas galore, and an exhilarating, witty, poignant paean to the unexplainable, the unsolvable, the irreducibly mysterious.
Garth Risk Hallberg
MixedThe Boston Globe“I was right there with Risk Hallberg for about the first 150 pages but interest began to wane soon after. When the second Book flashes back 15 years to fill in gaps and provide strangely belabored back stories, any narrative momentum is stopped dead in its tracks. And while the writing is often good, it’s very rarely great.”
MixedThe Boston GlobeTuck simultaneously creates a layered portrait of a family and the historical eras it lived through and questions the possibility of definitively capturing or summing up human lives. It’s a high-wire act that she doesn’t always manage successfully, but is nonetheless exciting in its sweep, ambition, and conceptual intricacy.