RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... profiles, with great vividness, five individuals who serve as narrative linchpins in a tale of a city hurtling from one crisis to the next ... The relentlessness of the violence described by Shackle is both sobering and gripping ... meticulously constructs a vibrant mosaic of a city’s underbelly, while disentangling the ways in which Karachi is enmeshed with crime lords, gangs, political interests and militants. Samira Shackle’s prose is nimble and propulsive, as she expertly combines interview, anecdote and reportage with in-depth sociopolitical analysis.
PositiveBookPage... combines folklore with magical realism in a manner reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Along with ghosts who appear as recurring characters, the prose is cut with imagery and metaphor in rhythmic patterns, adding another otherworldly element to the story ... Figueroa addresses important issues, including depression, suicide and personal and generational loss, with nuanced insight. She also skewers the tendency of white Americans to exoticize people with darker skin, portraying the impact of this prejudice in a deeply stirring manner. A lyrical contemplation of how we can never run away from our past, Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer is an exquisitely woven story about resilience and trauma.
MixedChicago Review of BooksThe novel starts strong and hits the right notes when it comes to skewering the social media generation’s obsession with maintaining carefully crafted real and virtual identities. Oyler tackles the banes of our digital age and how that can often lead to a splintered sense of self. The narrative is written entirely from the point of view of our protagonist which is what eventually hinders it from achieving its budding potential. For a narrative like this one, the central character has to be three dimensional or individualistic enough to sustain the interest of the reader. Here, however, our protagonist’s world view is narrow and inward looking. A majority of the narrative consists of stream-of-consciousness paragraphs that feel like scrolling through the tweets of a self-proclaimed journalist. Fake Accounts starts off strong but then loses steam about a 100 pages, in which unfortunately is only one third of the book. This book could have benefited from better editing consisting of less internal monologue and a more free-wheeling storyline.
PositiveThe Irish Times (IRE)For the most part Walsh avoids the pitfalls [of the typical foreign correspondent], stitching together a variegated collage of an oft misunderstood country through in-depth profiles of nine Pakistanis. The common threads between this diverse lot are their contribution to the country’s shifting political tectonic plates and the fact that most died violent deaths. It is somewhat ironic how in the world’s fifth most populous country most of the lives the book traces were tragically cut short ... While Walsh tries his best to acclimate himself to the ethos of each place he visits, at times he emphasises exoticism over nuance... The Nine Lives of Pakistan does a thorough job of mapping the racial and ethnic taxonomy of the nation, from the honourable Balochs and hospitable Pashtuns to the class-conscious Punjabis and “resilient” Karachiites. Clear-sighted and exhaustive, these dispatches paint a scrupulously layered portrait of a country that defies easy explanations.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... sensitively tackles the subject of how mental illness and therapy in particular is still frowned upon and very much a taboo subject among ethnic communities ... broaches the divide between neuroscience and psychology with shrewd clear sightedness ... One of the most appealing things about the narrative, which might be attributed to her scrupulously objective mind, is how self-aware and discerning our protagonist is about her various foibles...However, as most introspective narratives go, this style runs the risk of being discursive ... Gifty’s narration as a high-achieving Black neuroscientist, an anomaly in itself, highlights the prejudice against women in the field of scientific research ... Gyasi manages the uphill task of not only meeting the expectations of her best seller debut, but also surpassing it. Transcendent Kingdom is an evocative portrayal of the immigrant experience and an astutely written character study of an individual reconciling with her past, along with her struggle with faith and science.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... captivating ... Emezi manages the tricky feat of rising above pastiche and creating, in The Death of Vivek Oji, a robust literary triumph in its own right ... brimming with violent, unbridled emotions. Emezi’s compact, sophisticated prose excels at marrying economy with elegance ... It is no easy feat to give away the climax in the title yet still manage to build a compelling narrative around it. That requires self-assurance on the part of the author. Luckily for us, Emezi passes the test with dazzling aplomb. Their writing scintillates too with both poise and vigor ... The writing reaffirms Vivek’s death in poetic ways which, like an oft-repeated myth, threatens to undermine its gravity ... a sensitively drawn, achingly beautiful portrayal of the boundaries of personal, gender and societal identities.
PositiveThe Irish Times (IRE)The parts narrated as a chorus by Thula, the story’s heroine, and her contemporaries collectively as \'children\' give us a heartbreaking insight into a childhood marred by toxic fumes, chronic illnesses and a high mortality rate. Thula’s narration effectively portrays a blighted childhood which became the new normal for her and her friends ... Mbue renders in poignant detail how trauma manifests differently for each individual ... Through an array of voices, we get a multifaceted view of the many lives impacted by this environmental carnage. A downside of recounting the story from a multitude of perspectives is that it hampers the momentum. The reminiscing of various characters and abrupt jumps in the timeline result in a meandering plot which could have been more tautly edited. As it stands, this environmental saga is a stirring portrayal of the reverberations of the psychological and generational trauma endured by entire generations due to corporate greed.
RaveThe Spectator (UK)Bennett is at her most compelling when she describes the emotionally fraught bond between women...And she is deft at using figurative language ... This richly textured and nuanced novel depicts characters who find themselves with splintered identities in relation to their race, gender and lineage.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksChelsea Bieker does a stellar job of grounding the pre-apocalyptic premise of this story in the realistic, suburban setting of California’s Central Valley ... The story starts on a slow note and for the first 50 pages, it is not quite clear where it is headed. The narrative really comes into its own when the characters and their motives become more precise. Godshot features one of the most authentic and tenderly written portrayals of the bond between a mother and daughter ... Bieker has a knack for coruscatingly describing humans at their most vulnerable. The passages that linger the most in memory are the ones in which readers’ can feel Lacey’s ambivalent feeling towards her perpetually inebriated mother ... This multilayered debut is filled with moments that are starkly grim and intensely moving. Bieker proves her mettle as a writer in how she expresses, through her characters, the whole gamut of emotions from selfless love to bottomless grief. Ultimately, this story illustrates the resilience and strength required to be a woman in an unforgiving man’s world.
PositiveThe Irish TimesWith my history of sleep problems, I can vouch for the fact that the inability to sleep is one of the most infuriating experiences a person can go through. Harvey’s helplessness resonated with me as I read the book over the course of two nights of insomnolence while trying to eke out every second of sleep I could ... Sleeplessness is the pandemic of our generation and this book offers no universal solution. What it does offer, however, is the light at the end of a seemingly never-ending tunnel ... This memoir is a stimulating and hopeful book that gives us an intimate glimpse of a writer persevering through a challenging part of her life.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... [Wilson\'s] most assured novel ... This over-the-top premise becomes entertaining and believable in the capable hands of Wilson who, if you have read his previous novels, is no stranger to absurd plots. He takes the most ridiculous storylines and grounds them in reality with an ample dose of matter-of-factness and sentimentality ... The oddly humorous narrative is peppered with such random, laugh-out-loud gems that keeps the writing consistently engaging ... While Lillian’s indictment of Madison’s lifestyle is entertaining to read, Wilson is careful to depict Madison as more than just a Stepford Wife ... Descriptions are by turns elegantly precise and crisp ... This novel also portrays one of the realest and most layered portraits of female friendship I have read in a while, without resorting to melodrama or cheap thrills. The power dynamic, attraction and petty nastiness that is part and parcel of friendship is touched upon tenderly ... As big-hearted as it is bizarre, Nothing to See Here is a charming story about people who do not fit into conventional boxes forging unlikely bonds and finding their place in the world. This novel will surely warm the cockles of your heart!
MixedThe Irish Times\"The intricacies of artificial intelligence are also shrewdly touched upon ... McEwan seems to have exhaustively researched Alan Turing before writing this book but the problem is that he insists on detailing all his research on the slightest pretext. This proclivity extends to other topics as well, specially when it comes to the robot ... The story takes a few unnecessary detours, resulting in a baggy and jumbled narrative ... There is a sense that the themes of morality and AI that McEwan delves in have been addressed before in much more stimulating ways in recent literary fiction ... When Charlie is programming Adam’s personality parameters, he ruminates that \'...a lot of life is lived in the neutral zone, a familiar garden, but a grey one, unremarkable, immediately forgotten, hard to describe.\' Same could be said for this novel.\
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksFor the most part, the narrative is propelled by interior thoughts instead of dialogue. This is a double-edged sword—while it gives us profound insight into the characters’ inner lives, it also staves off tension and drama. At times, the novel feels like five disconnected character studies rather than a cohesive family story. Further, some plot developments require a major suspension of disbelief, especially Harry’s sudden memory retrieval. But the prose is arresting, and there are beautiful moments. The writing has a strong cadence to it, so much so that I almost felt as if the story did not do justice to Wolas’s elegant turns of phase, which are cerebral and finely tuned. For the most part, she engages readers with sophisticated, gracefully earnest prose rather than dialogue, which is no easy feat in a family drama ... While much of the novel is pitch-perfect, the climax does leave a little to be desired. Nonetheless, The Family Tabor is a supple and engrossing read—highly recommended for people who love an intricate family drama.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books\"Silber spins a yarn about interconnectedness spanning countries, people, and decades … The story is divided into three chapters, narrated by loosely connected characters and written in succinct, highly measured paragraphs. The prose serenely glides over irreversible, defining moments and how differently characters deal with the curveballs life throws at them. Novels that span over decades and feature so many characters tend to get tedious and self-indulgent, but the writing here is so effortlessly crisp that Silber frames an entire experience in a paragraph with laconic elegance … The prose eloquently evinces human emotions—love and heartbreak, regret and loss, guilt and redemption. It’s essentially about how every small action can have incorrigible consequences.\
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books\"A heartwrenching tale ... The non-chronologically stratified chapters add a three dimensional depth to the narrative as we trail Wade, Jen, and Ann and trace their life trajectories. Emily has a gift for poetic writing; each sentence is stylized to perfection. She strips down every emotion to its bare elemental form and has the knack for succinctly describing every emotion ... Idaho is exceptional partially because of Ruskovich’s decision not to focus on the dramatic moments, such as the murder or June’s disappearance—something which a less gifted writer might have done to keep readers’ interest intact. She chooses to focus instead on the prosaic, slice-of-life moments and the impacts of loss in even the most minuscule of actions. What makes Idaho particularly memorable is how Ruskovich verbalizes the myriad ways love and sorrow are manifested in our actions while also speaking to the intersection of empathy and forgiveness.\
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksSwing Time is shrewd with the question of how much of our self-perspective can be attributed to racial history, parental pressure and peers ... X’s mother is the most well-rounded character in the book, as Smith paints a vivid picture of her personality and zealous aspirations with scalpel-like precision ... it’s never clear where Smith wants to take her. X is a spectator through which the writer elucidates her views on charity, poverty, racism and media. But even in the end, there is little movement or resolution for X ... It may lack the verve and exuberant wit of White Teeth but that won’t diminish the book’s impact.