RaveThe New YorkerThe Vanishing Half...belongs to a long tradition of literature about racial passing ... Bennett roots out these withered tropes and reanimates them in a fresh, surprising story ... she leans into their prescribed melodrama. Her omniscient narration roves among story lines, introducing us to a cast of stock characters ... More than once, the plot turns on an outrageous coincidence. But, as the novel unfolds, we begin to recognize how deftly Bennett is rearranging the generic pieces of her story. Her frictionless prose whisks us across a period of nearly forty years, the plot unwinding nonsequentially ... The electricity inside this space—past, present, and the stretch between—comes from watching seemingly predictable characters collide in unexpected ways ... The narrative of passing inevitably confronts questions of performance: the dissonance between the authentic self and the projected self, the drama of seeing and being seen. But, in Bennett’s novel, Stella, the archetypal passing figure, is hardly the only performer. All of Bennett’s characters wrestle with the roles they have been assigned. The vital dynamic between actor and spectator yields different models of selfhood.
PositiveThe New Yorker... captivating ... The voice Enright conjures for Norah is lissome and intimate. She has an eye for the unexpected and exacting image...These images are associative and digressive, the way memory is. The story is easy to follow but difficult to reconstruct. But that may be part of Enright’s point. Making a narrative out of the inchoate past inevitably entails selection—and perhaps some level of deception ... Every so often, the novel shifts into the second person. The addressee is Norah’s husband. In these sections, the mood is warm and tender, and Enright shows herself to be a careful observer of long-term monogamy—its uneven tempo, its alternating major and minor keys.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... impressive ... Thammavongsa’s spare, rigorous stories are preoccupied with themes of alienation and dislocation, her characters burdened by the sense of existing unseen. She sets several stories in the workplace, where noxious hierarchies rooted in race and class reinforce and intensify her characters’ feelings of invisibility ... Thammavongsa’s gift for the gently absurd means the stories never feel dour or predictable, even when their outcomes are by some measure bleak ... It is when the characters’ sense of alienation follows them home, into the private space of the family, that Thammavongsa’s stories most wrench the heart.
PositiveBookforumUnlike many of Cain’s stories, Indelicacy does not forgo plot altogether, but it does continue to frame the story line in ways that leave much of the information outside the reader’s view ... From the beginning, then, we know the marriage will end—which makes reading the book like the experience of viewing a painting from a distance, seeing the whole of it at once, and then stepping forward to examine subtler details. These subtler details are not what one might expect; for a novel whose ostensible plot is about a woman getting married, and marrying up, no less, few words are devoted to the relationship, to what wife and husband say to or do with each other ... The story of a marriage is generally meant to impose order on the novel, to subordinate each moment to a larger design. In Indelicacy, this story finds itself subordinate to other forms of female pleasure and desire: friendship, sex, dancing, writing, daydreaming.
RaveBookforum[Boyer] refuses to write in the cheery, pink-ribbon style, to use the word struggle, to praise the medical establishment for the treatment advances it has made ... an examination of how to write (or not) about breast cancer and at the same time an elegant, devastating example of such writing ... Boyer resumes the self-reflexive, episodic style she explored in her previous books, only now with a more explicitly narrative form ... Boyer is merely sliding away the rose-colored glass to show us what lies behind it—misogynist and racist, brutal and mercenary, distributing suffering and death unequally by class, this is the world we have made ... Breast cancer, Boyer insists, cannot be understood as an ahistorical sameness, an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells. It is, rather, a socially and historically constructed nebula, and the women who have it do not suffer from the illness alone. They suffer from the world.
PositiveBookforum\"The prose brings into focus feelings more than facts ... The prose, its recursive rhythms, its endless deferring, expresses the doubt, the wariness, the shame, the \'What’s the point? There’s no point\' that consume middle sister ... Free of names and places and time lines, Burns can dispense with the deadfalls of more conventional historical fiction to foreground internal experience, a consciousness reeling amid oppressive conditions and long-term violence, arms out in front, grasping for something solid to lean up against and steady her stance. There is a relentlessness to the monologues, and even in their more repetitious moments they always express something greater than the words they are made of. This is the reward of the novel.\
PositiveFriezeMoschovakis is in search of a way of presenting a woman’s life that is not expressed solely through family and bonds with others—that rebuffs inherited conventions while acknowledging that women are still laboring their way through the mare’s nest chaotically erected by patriarchy. For a clue as to what she might do instead, Moschovakis borrows from Rimbaud, a figure Eleanor studies closely in the novel’s third section. ‘I am present at the explosion of my own thought,’ he wrote in a letter in 1871. ‘I watch and listen to it.’ It is life that creates Eleanor, life that creates the unnamed author, rather than the other way around. This is in part why the Aidan’s observations cause the author [one of Eleanor\'s protagonists] to doubt her choices in the novel but ultimately don’t prove to be all that helpful—Aidan, so convinced of his own ideas, so buoyed by male authority, fails to recognize the nature, let alone the significance, of the rejection she is making.