PanThe San Francisco ChronicleThe writing is generally clearer and plainer than in Frazier’s earlier books...but although V is ostensibly telling the story, Frazier recounts it in third person. This choice, along with the multiple flashbacks, has a muffling effect. The story feels heavy on explanation, ominous but without much sense of forward momentum, and potentially hard for readers to follow ... When a writer like Frazier sets out to retell the story of Varina Davis, and to give her a black character as a witness, the problem is not just whether he has the \'right\' to tell this story. The problem is that writers working from a position of greater privilege may not fully understand the implications of their structural and character choices ... There may be a path to reparations, if not redemption, but it doesn’t lie through learning how to tell the white story in more detail or by allowing the characters to receive affection, judgment and absolution, no matter how complex, from an imagined black witness.
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleOne of the book's central questions has to do with what we throw away, and what we keep, what we value mistakenly, and the price we pay for hanging on. The world Frida and Cal live in has been slowly eroded by all the ways humans have changed the planet (there's a terrible future, alas, in plastics) and by our mad appetite for endless objects, here broken and turned into defense armatures … The book, for both characters and reader, is like a tense, hypnotic journey along a mountain road as abyss after abyss opens up beside and around you. Each abyss has its horrors, and many illuminate new horrors in the previous abysses, though a couple of them seem at odds with the book's otherwise immaculate rendition of a convincing reality. Both characters and readers wind up clinging to small pleasures along the way, hoping that any reprieve is a turn for the better.
RaveThe Millions... [an] unnerving, beautifully crafted novel ... Fridlund uses shards of intersecting storylines and glancing, uncomfortable juxtapositions to capture moments of rationalization, denial, and delusion ... The novel feels dreamlike in its wondering, hypnotic gaze, as well as in its recursive structure, but it is entirely realistic in its events.
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleOn the surface, the novel makes highly entertaining theater out of the characters’ lives and the increasingly disastrous performances of the play. Underneath, the book is as serious as the characters are about their obsessive concerns: climate change, evolution and disintegration, failure and loneliness ... gripping and engaging all the way through, the characters’ miseries as moving as their fierce attachments to hope and the possibility of unexpected mercies.
PositiveSan Francisco ChronicleIn The Mare, Gaitskill engages, sometimes alarmingly, in multiple ambivalent, self-conscious acts of appropriation, apparently drawing on many of the family dynamics she described in the essay. The novel both tackles and embodies this appropriation, anxiously considering race and class privilege, emotional neediness and the hunger to be a savior. In the novel, unlike the essay, the ending redeems the characters and so justifies all their choices and actions.