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
RaveThe Boston Globe... [an] ambitious and ingenious novel that presents a stinging exploration of grief, a reflection on our relationship to objects, a potent testament to the importance of reading, writing, and books ... The most endearing aspect of Ozeki’s novel is its unabashed celebration of words, writing, and reading. A library is one of the novel’s most enchanted settings, at once a refuge from the cacophony of objects that overwhelms Benny at home and in school and a magical portal to a world of self-discovery and unexpected connections ... The Book of Form and Emptiness is charming and warm, dynamic and filled with love, but over-full and a bit undisciplined. It meanders and digresses ... But its heart, its ardent, beating heart, is huge. Ozeki’s playfulness and zaniness, her compassion and boundless curiosity, prevent the novel from ever feeling stiff or pretentious. Clever without being arch, metafictional without being arcane, dark without being nihilistic, The Book of Form and Emptiness is an exuberant delight.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeEthan’s ability to see his father in the round, to recognize the difficulty of his experience, to forgive a flawed human being in a radical act of sympathy, epitomizes Silber’s stance throughout the book. As she gives us narrators ranging from one of Nok’s sons to the spurned lover of a married man, from the radical, questing son of arch-conservative parents to a documentary filmmaker raised in Nepal and Berkeley, she explores the difficult act of self-fashioning in the face of financial obstacles, racism, illness, mortality, familial pressures, and obligations. Her characters steal, cheat, and lie, they fall into addiction and give in to destructive anger, but they are never reduced to cartoons or stereotypes ... Charles Dickens, whose novels are mentioned several times by narrators, hovers as a kind of tutelary spirit over the book. Wealth, class, inheritance—the main Dickensian themes are Silber’s too ... These are recognizable people, stepping out from the ruins of their lives, who have been bent and broken, but perhaps into a better shape.
RaveThe Boston Globe... a blazing and brilliant return to form ... a taut and tight, suspenseful and spellbinding, witty and wonderful group of eight stories ... there isn’t a weak one in the bunch. The stories echo with Murakami’s preoccupations. Nostalgia and longing for the charged, evocative moments of young adulthood. Memory’s power and fragility; how identity forms from random decisions, \'minor incidents,\' and chance encounters; the at once intransigent and fragile nature of the \'self.\' Guilt, shame, and regret for mistakes made and people damaged by foolish or heartless choices. The power and potency of young love and the residual weight of fleeting erotic entanglements. Music’s power to make indelible impressions, elicit buried memories, connect otherwise very different people, and capture what words cannot. The themes become a kind of meter against which all the stories make their particular, chiming rhythms ... The reading experience is unsettled by a pervasive blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality, dream and waking ... Most of the narrators foreground the act of telling and ruminate on the intention behind and effects of disclosing secrets, putting inchoate impulses, fears, or yearnings into clear, logical prose ... This mesmerizing collection would make a superb introduction to Murakami for anyone who hasn’t yet fallen under his spell; his legion of devoted fans will gobble it up and beg for more.
RaveThe Boston Globe... a sustained shot of brilliance. By turns tight and exuberant, disciplined and expansive, the collection shimmers with insight and moments of perfectly realized beauty. It provokes unabashed laughter, it inspires profound thinking, it delights and disturbs in equal measure. The stories are wildly varied in place (Japan, Israel, New York, California), tone (comic,somber, manic, restrained), and voice (male, female, young, old, first person, third person, and a blend of the two) ... The range of topics and styles reflects Krauss\' multifaceted talent. She is equally adept at Malamud-esque fabulism and tragi-comedy, dystopian darkness and light-filled wit, mythic resonance and contemporary detail, breathless narrative that digresses, bubbles over, or hurtles forward at a breakneck pace and stark, measured reflections in the vein of Rachel Cusk ... Throughout, Krauss exquisitely depicts and inspires what one of her characters calls \'the peculiar ache of being alive.\' Joy and woe are woven fine in this extraordinary book.
MixedThe Boston GlobeJack is suffused with the virtues that make Robinson one of our greatest thinkers on matters of spirituality, love, and family. Thoughtful, subtle, probing, it glows with wit and wisdom. But, against its siblings in the series, it casts a cloudier light, with fewer flashes to bring tears to the eyes or an exclamation to the lips. That is in part due to the fact that Jack relies much more heavily on dialogue, which hurries Robinson’s prose from its typical patient unfolding. But it’s mostly due to its titular character ... By granting us access to Jack’s thoughts, regrets, pangs, and longings, Robinson casts a warm glow of forgiveness and mercy over a man whom others would disparage or deride. There is something beautiful and worthy in her giving him his own novel, his own opportunity to win our sympathy, our admiration, our tender regard ... But Robinson was also right to be apprehensive about the approach. Jack’s head is a place of excoriation, self-loathing, and intermittent inebriation—abiding there is fascinating but ultimately taxing ... the reader can’t help but feel that a novel called \'Jack and Della\'...would have made for a better, more capacious and moving book. Though Della is a vivid presence and has some of the book’s most arresting lines, her motivation for loving Jack is never entirely clear ... Only if we see them as figures in a strenuous Christian parable—she the embodiment of charity, patience, and mercy, he the struggling sinner yearning for love’s transfiguration—does their love feel right.
J. Courtney Sullivan
MixedThe Boston Globe... worthy but flawed ... Sam is a wonderful authorial creation, endearing and flawed and complicated in recognizably human and compelling ways. Sullivan exquisitely captures the intoxication of young love, the way that romantic relationships offer a sense of expansive promise even as they threaten to constrict us, the liminal state between childhood and adulthood inhabited by college students. She deftly depicts Sam\'s friendships with her wealthy, spoiled, but funny and smart roommate, Isabella, and her fellow dining hall workers ... giving half the book to Elizabeth was a mistake ... Spending time in her head can be irritating, tedious, and frustrating. She isn’t a compellingly unlikable person—her ethical and moral deficiencies aren’t especially interesting—and many of her missteps and misdeeds feel motivated by the demands of plot rather than character ... Sullivan’s style is unfussy and straightforward; no fashionable metafiction, no authorial flourishes or showy allusions for her. Sincere, earnest, and well-meaning, intermittently funny and always smart, Friends and Strangers is ultimately a bit disappointing.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeThe novel is a relatively minor yet nonetheless striking and original contribution to Moshfegh’s remarkable oeuvre ... Like Moshfegh’s other heroines, Vesta is prickly, judgmental, and difficult to love ... But what makes her endearing are her bracing honesty, her yearning for a larger life, and her resistance to scripts and conventions ... what initially seems to be a novel about grief becomes instead a novel about trauma and survival ... To dismiss Vesta as merely insane or paranoid would be to miss the point ... Vesta’s interpretations and creations are crucial to her personal growth, pursued on her own terms and not via the self-help books \'that offered… banal instructions on how to improve oneself.\'
RaveThe Boston GlobeErdrich’s reverence for her heroic grandfather and her moral passion about the mistreatment of her people irradiate the magisterial, beautiful, important fiction she creates here ... Thomas is our literal night watchman, and Patrice must also watch out for her father’s lurking presence, but Erdrich beautifully evokes and explores the many figurative implications and resonances of both words ... Some readers may find the novel’s kaleidoscope of perspectives confusing or its ambling pace too slow. But those who can surrender to Erdrich’s intricate tapestry of a vision, who appreciate her remarkable ability to veer from humor to pathos in a pithy phrase and, as one character says of another, to \'make life’s bitterness into comedy,\' who admire her luminous empathy, will place The Night Watchman alongside the best of her remarkable fiction.
RaveThe Boston Globe... tiny in size and immense in scope, radically disorienting yet reassuringly humane, strikingly eccentric and completely irresistible ... A narrator and a novel that hum with anxiety and pulse with dread are nonetheless hilarious, warm, and lovable. Both ruefully mordant and strangely consoling, Weather is at once brutal in its unsparing honesty and utterly exhilarating in its wit and intelligence. It radiates with the beleaguered yet buoyant optimism, the luminous integrity, of a supple and fearless writer.
RaveThe Boston Globe... its slimness belies its incendiary content ... Gaitskill uncannily captures Quin’s intoxicating mixture of brashness and tenderness, performative wit and flair and haunting vulnerability ... That the story is narrated by a \'perpetrator\' (Quin) and an \'apologist\' (Margot) makes This Is Pleasure a very risky endeavorto reduce an enigmatic and ambiguous story to a castigatory epithet is to miss the point of Gaitskill’s fiction ... one of our greatest living writers brings to the most inflammatory of topics nuance, subtlety, and a capacious humanity that grants mercy even as it never excuses.
PositiveThe Boston Globe... bleaker, sadder, more achingly beautiful than its predecessor, and a magnificent achievement on its own terms ... Improbable and sustaining connections between the most unlikely of kindred spirits is one of Strout’s big themes here, and for the most part she does it beautifully ... \'Cleaning,\' about an eighth-grade girl who touches her breasts for a voyeuristic old man (the husband of her teacher/employer) and is rewarded with envelopes stuffed with cash, is a rare misfire; it feels ostentatiously provocative and psychologically implausible ... Strout evokes the \'gaping bright universe of loneliness\' and the terror of aging and dying so well that reading Olive, Again is at times a viscerally painful, even frightening experience. But she also gives us moments of startling poetic beauty and reminds us of the sustenance all around us.
RaveThe Boston Globe... intricate and alluring ... The Dutch House is more than a house, of course. Like Bronte’s Thornfield or Wuthering Heights, Du Maurier’s Manderley, Jay Gatsby’s mansion, Darcy’s Pemberley, and Miss Havisham’s Satis House, it is a compelling character in its own right, one which plays a central role in courtships, marriages, and the trajectory of its inhabitants’ lives ... jumps around in time. This is both a strength and a weakness of the novel, sometimes evacuating it of suspense and propulsive urgency, but just as often enabling interesting juxtapositions and deeper reflections on perspective and memory — though as Patchett reminds us, it’s impossible \'to ever see the past as it actually was\' ... The precision and subtlety of Patchett’s observations about family, her deft absorption and redeployment of a host of literary modes and models, and her narrator’s unsparing honesty are all deserving of high praise. And despite a final plot twist that feels a bit pat, The Dutch House has the richness, allusiveness, and emotional heft of the best fiction.
RaveThe Boston Globe\"In 15 audacious stories, Hempel creates an uncanny and mesmerizing universe ... Throughout, Hempel asks: When is singing a form of denial, an act of occlusion, a whistling in the wind, and when is it a genuinely healing, redemptive, liberating act? Her own song is at once stark and resonant, witty and plaintive, buoyant and wistful, and this collection one of the most original and beautiful in recent memory.\
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.