RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksWhen I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East is no ordinary adventure tale. Although the events, and the landscapes, are strange and wondrous, Quan Barry’s new novel is utterly original, a unique immersion in history, philosophy, religion, the nature of time, and the clash of old and new happening all over our world. It can take a few pages to get the hang of this book, with its short chapters — most just a page or two long — which often end in mid-scene and pick up again in the same place, upending traditional ideas of what a chapter or a scene should be. Barry is implying that the ways we divide time are artificial, that time itself is illusory, a theme that is everywhere in her book ... Although Barry’s story is drenched in Buddhist ideas, it is not just for people interested in Buddhism. The questions Chuluun wrestles with are for everyone ... The author’s landscapes are thrilling ... An award-winning poet, Barry shapes transparent, simple language into images that are lyrical and haunting ... When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East is a story of much magic and many miracles — a startling, yet gentle, book.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksYelena Akhtiorskaya’s debut novel has immense charm, is enormously funny, and shows readers worlds we had no idea we were so curious about ... Panic in a Suitcase is not a strongly plot-driven book, though it is rich in narrative. The writing is dazzling, with sentences like fireworks rocketing off. But to enjoy the humor and warmth of this study of family and culture requires a rhythmic shift in readers’ usual approach to novel-reading ... The shift in question involves letting Akhtiorskaya’s tale emerge on its own terms, an adjustment that can take a while ... A flurry of marvelous, often very funny descriptions of people and places — sprinkled with dialogue and resulting in forward plot movement — propels us along ... As its vibrant characters accrue, in layers, over the pages, the book’s glimpses into family dynamics are amusing, but also deeply poignant — it’s a warm story, affectionate toward its characters, as well as a satirical romp.
Sofia Segovia, Trans. by Simon Bruni
RaveWashington Independent ReviewA magical-realism romp from Mexico, Sofía Segovia’s The Murmur of Bees—her first novel translated into English—offers a dizzying swirl of history, family lore, tragedy, redemption, and, of course, magic. It’s the kind of magic that Latin American authors have developed to a high and subtle art, and it infuses every page of this saga ... A complicated picture of Mexico emerges. We see a society that understands magic and miracles as a part of life, but sees also that political upheaval, violence, and endless, wrenching class struggles are part of it, too. The magic is the novel’s great charm ... Readers used to brisk, dialogue-driven novels—typical fare in the U.S.—may find themselves challenged by the leisurely pace of much of this book. It’s worth surrendering to Segovia, though, and sinking into these pages because she’s very good at what she does, and her writing is lovely ... Multiple narrators move in a seamless way through the chapters, an approach that is especially effective as the book builds to its powerful climax, with each shift of narrator adding another piece to our understanding of what is happening, while simultaneously making us wait for the inevitable. In these later pages, the story is irresistible.
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksThe story’s drama, sweeping across generations, is mesmerizing, but page by page is where Thompson truly showcases her great skill: her ability to capture the nuance of individual moments, thoughts, and reactions. No one writing today is better at this ... utterly convincing and satisfying ... a rich experience that rewards the heart with every turn of the page. Thompson, a previous National Book Award finalist, is, as the expression goes, working at the height of her powers ... And what it says about living is the greatest gift Jean Thompson has given to this extraordinary novel.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksFamily and society define Aaliya, the narrator of Rabih Alameddine’s new novel, An Unnecessary Woman, as useless and an 'unnecessary appendage' ... The book spans three days of this unique, strange, invisible life Aaliya has constructed so carefully and desperately, compelling readers to see where it takes her ...is about listening to a voice — Aaliya’s — not cantering through a plot, although powerful events do occur, both in the present and in memory ... Aaliya’s voice, however, is pure — she comes to us untranslated, unfiltered. That doesn’t mean she’s entirely reliable, even though her vulnerability and candor make her fundamentally trustworthy ...is not a game, though; it is a grave, powerful book. It is the hour-by-hour study of a woman who is struggling for dignity with every breath.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksChristine Sneed is, simply, the queen of endings. The last page of nearly every one of these stories screams out to the reader, 'Read me again, over and over' ... Sneed not only excels at endings, she creates fascinating beginnings and middles, as well. She presents characters who comprise a dazzling range of age, class, gender, and circumstance ... Yet for all these glimpses into dark corners of human life, Sneed’s stories also emit light. She crafts nuanced portraits of all sorts of people who never give up struggling to make sense of what they’re experiencing ... a stunning collection.