RaveThe Post and CourierRenkl’s essays confront the tired, flat stereotypes of a homogenous, conservative, redneck South, while acknowledging the kernels of truth from which they arise ... She rankles at being dubbed the \'voice of the South\' because, she says, there is no one South. But that doesn’t keep her from honing a voice of writerly eloquence and muscle, one that is deeply personal yet also universal, which is the magic of a masterful essay. Not all readers will agree with Renkl’s progressive politics, but the collection is much more than that Her prose is reminiscent of Verlyn Klinkenborg’s meditations on rural life, also published in The Times. Both are like stumbling upon an exquisite, rare blossom in an unexpected place—inviting you to pause and ponder, and offer silent thanks in praise ... As a curated collection of newspaper columns, Graceland, At Last lacks some of the poetry and elegiac beauty of her genre-busting debut work of interwoven reflections about family, grief and backyard epiphanies, but Renkl’s singular voice is clear.
RaveThe Post and Courier... what reading Lily King’s fifth work of fiction does to you: It leaves you wide open and skinless, with the whole world feeling gorgeously palpable ... It could be trip-up territory, all too easy to lean on tropes or to get too authorial and esoteric. Instead, King gives us utterly relatable characters in settings, specifically Cambridge and Boston of the late 1990s, that vividly come to life, and a pace that clips along even as the prose begs you to slow down and savor ... King’s storytelling is propelled by her own secret engine, one fueled by exquisite detail, nuanced atmosphere and immense human insight. The restaurant scenes are particularly zippy and will resonate with anyone who has ever worked in F&B ... her fellow waiters...could have been throwaway characters, but through finely honed dialogue, King makes them memorable and multidimensional ... By harnessing the immense undertow of the heart, King tugs you into her tale of passion and grief, of seeking, striving and surrender ... This is a book for writers, and for lovers, and for any human with a heart. It made me a lover of King’s brilliant writing, and my guess is, she’ll pull you in, too.
J. Drew Lanham
RaveThe Post and CourierLanham, alumni distinguished professor of wildlife ecology at Clemson University, does what good scientists and poets do: he pays attention, asks questions, makes connections. And in his warm, wise and highly readable memoir, he compels the reader to do the same ... Lanham’s descriptions of his family life and upbringing in a county famous for its history of slave potters and bigoted politicians (“hatred festers just under the skin of the place”) are not self-indulgent but expansive and endearing ... It’s here, in his straddling reflections as a black man in the woods, the university, the South’s churches, that Lanham’s insights soar ... Without self-pity or self-righteousness or even summoning white guilt, he bridges the often-unacknowledged gulf between white privilege and black experience with poignant observation.
PositiveThe Post and Courier... slim, beautifully combustible ... Quatro treats the mysteries and complexities of love, marriage, faith and infidelity like the highly flammable subjects they are — elements of light, heat, energy — as fundamental as they are dangerous. With searing prose and a tilted approach, Quatro builds a bonfire from the tiniest sparks of well-honed detail, and this reader was drawn to its flame ... Quatro captures the nuances of the modern epistolary — the subject-line drama, the appropriate sign-off, the challenge of voice and how to strike that balance of familiarity, humor, warmth and, eventually, intimacy — in formats (email and texting) that can be tone deaf and mechanical ... I have a Masters in theology and even I sometimes found these sidebars stilted and tritely erudite ... The strength of this condensed, spare story is Quatro’s stripped down prose. Her voice is naked, direct, urgent. Phrases stand alone, untethered to conventional grammar constructs. They dare, implore, seduce. The narrative’s chronology is nonlinear, it’s dizzying and difficult to follow, which, come to think of it, is exactly how our lives play out ... Quatro juxtaposes flashbacks and immediacy in the same sentence, and her writing evokes this unsettled nature of being, the way longings and lust can upend our needs and musts, the way the realities of today can be unmoored by the hauntings of yesterday, by deeds or dreams left done or undone ... If you like a sequential plot, this book might drive you crazy. But if you appreciate an author who can make and break her own rules and isn’t afraid to play with fire, then you’re in for a treat ... I confess it took me a while to warm up to Quatro’s disjointed narration, but the steely precision of her descriptive passages are enough to carry this slim book, this embered ode to longing and devotion in its various forms: religious, married, parental, familial, forbidden.