RavePloughsharesIn Sisters identity is fluid and individuals remain elusive—like in Johnson’s previous books ... With Sisters, Johnson brings her twisty, shiny adjectives and alchemical sentences to the story of two sisters growing apart ... Johnson’s eschewment of simile for metaphor...dissolves the borders between dreams and reality, presenting a radical portrait of identity ... Lesser writers would resolve this question with some pat explanation of how to delineate between the essential and trivial. Instead of anything didactic, Johnson and her blurring, expansive language merge the figurative and the literal, leaving us with a series of searing impressions of the girls and their connection, all of them vivid, distinct, and fleeting.
PositiveFull StopFor fans of Everett’s more satirical fictions, Telephone might seem like a wayward attempt at conventionality, but behind the homebound setting’s realist framing is a novel no less attuned to the culture around it and, despite its restraint, no less intelligent in its forms of representation, an accomplishment all the more impressive for working within the ostensible constraints of the domestic drama genre.
Scholastique Mukasonga, trans. by Jordan Stump
RaveThe Kenyon ReviewMukasonga’s attention to those granular and indigestible names offers an alternative to the more antiseptic studies of the genocide and leaves us with an intentionally troubling book ... The prose is grounded in facts and is free of description, so the horror that arises from these passages comes not from some creative use of language but rather from the events themselves. These alone are more than enough ... Though the book consists of unadorned prose, Mukasonga occasionally departs from this bare voice. With just a slight shift in register, her nostalgic scenes deploy a more lyrical language, which underscores her childhood’s schizophrenic world where brutal discrimination coexisted with pastoral family moments ... Though the genocide threatens to drown out all else, Mukasonga’s extraction of meaning and vitality from her memories’ smallest details gives nuance to even the most obvious horrors. That she doesn’t use this skill to soften the story but rather to cast so much in the genocide’s shadow leaves us with a cold comfort, but she accomplishes her goal and provides an unflinching testament to much of what the genocide almost obliterated—the customs and lives and people, both named and not.
RaveChicago Review of BooksLucy Ellmann has written an effervescent novel, Ducks, Newburyport, that encompasses a contemporary life by underscoring the material language that composes its consciousness ... Ducks, Newburyport is unapologetic in how it molds a consciousness on the page. That consciousness acts as a nexus for the noise of contemporary life, occasionally to an enervating, exhilarating effect ... The only breaks from the continuous sentence are the short sections that follow a female mountain lion ... Filled with conventionally lovely sentences, the prose here shrinks its scope upon entering the mountain lion’s comparatively clear and simple mind ... More often than not, the word associations bubble up and burst as slight, inconsequential digressions ... Quips like this litter Ducks, Newburyport like the gleaming detritus of a treasure-filled junkyard; they are the leftovers from the fact that language is a living, evolving structure ... entrancing.
PositiveChicago Review of Books...slyly ambitious ... The book’s two halves are also a contrast in styles. Either section could operate as an intelligent, stand-alone novella ... As the shared elements between the book’s halves become increasingly conspicuous, they begin to suggest a shared consciousness, in a twist that the coda makes explicit.
Nicola Lagioia, Trans. by Antony Shugaar
PositiveThe Chicago Review of Books...his sumptuous opener seems to set up a typical murder mystery, but it quickly wields allegory, social realism, domestic drama, and myth to create a layered and expansive novel ... As Michele continues to explore and expand the faults that led to his sister’s death, Ferocity develops a numbing bleakness ... The murder mystery, the family drama, and the urban portrait each inform the others, and the sprawl of narratives creates a portrait of a city’s deprivation and a brother’s desperate attempts at redemption.
Alejandro Zambra, Trans. by Megan McDowell
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksIn Multiple Choice, the Chilean writer exerts his considerable talents to perforate the collective memory that filtered down from the state to its citizens ... Through this omnipresent confusion, Multiple Choice argues against concerted efforts to reach at some fundamental truth, suggesting such a discovery is impossible and constructing a world where truths are personal and arbitrary and, in being so, useless ... Through its demands, Multiple Choice trains you in how to read it, so what feels disjointed and senseless at first becomes dangerously seamless and fun.