RaveThe Believer... an exacting chronicle of the everyday, a work of big-hearted humor, and a memoir that’s as much about the potential of the future as it is about the bittersweetness of the past ... broad and accommodating in its minutiae, big enough to contain a diverse readership. Though it may help to be a cantankerous old white male cartoonist before picking up this book, you don’t necessarily have to be to enjoy it ... I found myself not only relating to Paul but reflecting on shibboleths between generations ... In its careful attention to detail and thorough examination of the challenges and triumphs of being human, it’s a book that offers an opportunity for growth, not just for Paul but for the reader sympathetic to his situation. As a chronicle of a life, Paul at Home is a success.
PositiveThe Washington Post... an impressively granular investigation of this shocking and perplexing case. Admirably, Cooper tries to do two things — tell the story of Britton’s murder and seek justice for her ... the investigation’s details are frequently overshadowed by Cooper’s troubled relationship to the case: She wants to extract a story from the past that both makes logical sense and points, as the clues do, to knowledge of ancient life. This leads her down various rabbit holes, guessing at narratives that may not fit with the truth of the case and questioning her own assumptions as she does so ... Cooper should be lauded for her investigative abilities — there is no question that she has earned her spot among the ranks of detectives and reporters who have spent decades obsessed with the Britton case ... While We Keep the Dead Close is hardly smitten with its villains, it does spend much of its 400-plus pages trying to get inside their heads, occasionally causing the narrative to stray from rigorous investigation into the realm of eye-popping speculation ... It’s in discussing the misogyny of academia and the politics of Harvard that Cooper shines the brightest ... In Cooper’s capable hands, Harvard, with all its prestige and palace intrigue, is as much a character in the book as her suspects and interviewees, guilty of sidelining Britton and protecting the men who tormented her ... the story of Britton is also a story of extreme privilege: Her family was from a well-to-do Boston suburb, and her father held a high-ranking position at Radcliffe. Of course, this doesn’t mean Britton’s story shouldn’t be told; rather, it begs consideration of why it’s being told, why Britton was memorialized in a way that many women of a different race and class would not have been. Had Cooper approached this question with the same interrogative spirit with which she approached her own narrative assumptions, the book would have felt more complete ... doesn’t conclude with the revelation we were expecting. I won’t disclose the ending here, to preserve the suspense. That said, the book is more than just a mystery: It’s a meditation on academia, womanhood and the power of storytelling. Even though Cooper may not always thread the narrative needle exactly as she wants, she’s proved herself more than capable of letting the artifacts of the past speak for themselves.
RaveThe Washington Post... will be heart-rending for anyone to read, though I can’t imagine anyone’s heart will be rent in quite the same way addicts’ will ... Andersen’s prose rings not just with the fierce love of a grieving sister but the unblinking compassion of a fellow addict. The Heart and Other Monsters is a tender chronicle of the things that stood in Sarah’s way ... Andersen has written the story of another’s life in which she is a supporting character: It’s a feat not only of imagination but of love and empathy. A life cut as short as Sarah’s could have taken all manner of exhilarating twists and turns, and in Andersen’s deeply felt, complex account, Sarah’s life is allowed to occupy the dimensions it could have had it not been overtaken by addiction ... a relatively slim volume at 212 pages.One cannot help but wonder what Andersen could have accomplished had she allowed herself more space. Although the recovery community urges against taking inventories, a memoir does take inventory of a life’s events, and Andersen moves at a clip that sometimes feels obstructive to her own purposes. I was left wondering whether her cancer and sojourns in Italy tied into her own coke-and-alcohol tailspin. I was curious to spend more time with Rose and Sarah as children, to see them playing (as Sarah does in a beautiful interlude about believing in fairies) and becoming, to see what existed of who they wanted to be before they had to duck and cover from their nasty father and stepfather. I would have happily read more of Andersen’s deft inhabitation of Sarah’s point of view. The book certainly works at 212 pages, but the inquisitive reader in me — and perhaps the addict as well — wanted more, more, more ... a primer not only for addiction but for grief and love ... The book bears the massive responsibility of preserving Sarah’s legacy, but it also asks the reader to bear some responsibility for understanding Sarah’s complex humanity. Any addict can imagine herself in Sarah’s place: Now it’s the nonaddict’s turn. This kind of imaginative empathy seems particularly crucial as people continue to die of opioid overdoses all over the country. So read The Heart and Other Monsters and start seeing addicts as human. It’s all on you now.
Nina Renata Aron
RaveThe Washington Post... stunning. I came to it as a reader with extensive experience with addiction and codependency; reading it was like a first sip of water after a 20-mile run in the heat. Aron is not only a master of metaphor but also a brilliant researcher who braids the story of a romantic life lost to codependency with a variety of other texts ... If you’ve been an addict or loved an addict, Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls will enter your bloodstream and overtake your mind in the most serious way. But even if you have no experience with addiction or codependency, this book is an essential read. It shows us that addicts are more than statistics, their codependents more than \'sniveling, whimpering, and brokenhearted.\' These are real people, rendered by Aron with eye-opening complexity and dynamism. In this book, the underrepresented and overlooked world of the codependent emerges from the bargain basement of self-help and shopworn homilies into the realm of love and loathing, birth and death, blood and urine. Into the realm, in other words, of the literary ... Here we see that women can not only minister to addicts but be addicts themselves, and that the whole messy, dangerous, love-bound struggle is more common than one might think. There is a war of attrition being waged by addiction and codependency against millions of American souls, and Aron’s memoir is a powerful strike back.
RaveThe Washington Post... a refreshingly whimsical debut that explores the agonies of millennial life under late capitalism with the kind of surrealist humor that will offer anxious minds a reprieve from our calamitous news cycle ... A lesser writer might have chosen to describe the temp’s meandering as a path to her fulfillment, but Leichter smartly uses fantastical ideas to communicate the drudgery of professional impermanence ... Leichter’s dry wit is masterful, but her novel suffers from the occasional tonal inconsistency ... It seems as if Leichter wants to pair fairy-tale strangeness with real-world consequences, and the effect often feels more chaotic than appropriately eerie ... Still, as a book about the brutality of the work world, Temporary is a great success. Leichter has managed to blend the oddball and the existential into a tale of millennial woe that’s both dreadful and hilarious at once. This book should be recommended reading for workers — and essential reading for nonessential workers — everywhere.
MixedThe Washington PostThe polyphonic narrative...has the pacing and urgency of a spy thriller but the middling stakes of a book about a group of privileged kids sending each other cryptic texts. By the time the stakes do achieve life-or-death heights, the novel has forced itself into an awkward stance of violence and suspense that doesn’t entirely fit with its crumpled class notes and teenage self-importance ... In the #MeToo era, the intent of The Swallows is admirable: Trace toxic masculinity back to its roots, the peacocking years of early adolescence, and empower a group of young women to shatter it. And Lutz is mordant in her descriptions of \'boys will be boys\' sliminess ... It’s in the machinations of the campus cold war itself—and in her clumsy homage to le Carré—that Lutz stumbles ... there is much to be said about power, privilege and cycles of abuse that is skimmed over in favor of spy-versus-spy skulduggery in The Swallows ... Where the novel truly succeeds is in its implication of adults in the nasty schemes of kids.
RaveThe Washington Post...hilarious ... Poetry, long thought to be the product of creative purity—and almost anti-capitalist in its unmarketability—becomes a tool for deception and self-promotion in Ives’s capable hands ... What exactly Loudermilk is after—money? unfettered access to female undergrads? cultural capital? pulling one over on the poetry world?—is never fully addressed. But the story isn’t any less captivating as a result ... Loudermilk is successful in getting readers to think about the origins of contemporary literature: The MFA program and the satellite communities that arise from it may be, after all, functional last bastions of literary ideas in the United States. But the novel falters when it tries to be about more than just Loudermilk’s deception ... To make matters more difficult, the novel is interspersed with giant chunks of [the character] Clare’s fiction, all of which is far less interesting than Harry’s poetry ... Still, Loudermilk is, overall, a riotous success. Equal parts campus novel, buddy comedy and meditation on art-making under late capitalism, the novel is a hugely funny portrait of an egomaniac and his nebbish best friend.