PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksSilverman uses suspense to good effect here, compelling readers to flip pages quickly, desperate to know what happened; what’s the big thing Cass did to ruin her life? ... Silverman handles these overlapping stories well. There is a lot going on in the plot, however, and not enough time to spend with each of Cass’ relationships. The teenage girl fight club documentary plotline is less interesting than it could be because the reader’s ear is always to the wall, waiting to find out more about what happened with New York and Tara-Jean Slater ... While Cass’ relationship with her new housemates appears dynamic, there still isn’t enough room to explore these relationships in depth, leaving some character arcs feeling a little like reading off a list of names ... the drama of that event isn’t what readers will be left thinking about. The plot grabs you in more subtle ways ... an excellent dynamic that Silverman does a great job exploring, inviting readers to sympathize with Cass’ jealousy but realize, even as she talks from the first-person perspective, she’s missing something important ... a brilliant ending.
PositiveChicago Review of Books... a psychological thriller with elements of horror which extend far beyond what simply happens in the plot. Johnson’s writing is at once transparent and opaque, with crisp, meaningful sentences guiding readers through intentionally murky details, establishing character relationships that are case studies in toxicity and abuse ... a meditation on complicated grief and mental illness. It explores, using the language of horror, the nuances of mourning someone who caused you pain, the disgusted relief that could come with it ... This book, also, understands and sympathizes with the impulse to be needed too much. But it turns that sympathy into a powerful demonstration of how that much need can turn lethal. I would have liked to see July become angrier at some point, to see a glimmer of kindness in September so she isn’t completely irredeemable too. The characters in Sisters are not very multifaceted, but that might be the point. This could happen to anyone, the book says.
Jean Kyoung Frazier
PanThe Chicago Review of BooksUnfortunately, Pizza Girl lacks a sense of meaningful self-awareness, and the narrator is more unlikeable for it ... precious little evidence for the reader about why Jane is so obsessed with this woman. This, paired with Jenny’s many quirks reads a bit like a cliché from a YA novel ... If we had the chance to move from Jane’s eyes, maybe we could get a better sense of how her boyfriend, who is grieving the loss of both of his parents, is feeling. We could see how her mom, an immigrant from Korea, dealt with her abusive, dangerous husband...We’re stuck with Jane, though, and she’s stuck on Jenny, and neither of them are very likeable. A protagonist can make mistakes, can be reckless and cruel–up to a certain point. Kyoung Fraizer’s portrayal of addiction is raw and candid, but it doesn’t sit right with an audience correctly predispositioned to be wary of people who drink while they’re pregnant ... Jane’s priorities haven’t shifted by the end of the book, and it’s really too bad ... a sad ending for everyone, not least for the story itself, which had the potential to be an honest, wry look at addiction and abuse and ended up more like a silly love story that doesn’t make sense.
Laura van den Berg
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksAll of the stories in this book explore relationships in a strikingly unconventional way. It’s impossible to ignore van den Berg’s attention to the intricacies of sisterhood, in particular, and the way that she sets up these sister relationships ... Van den Berg’s detached writing might strike some as cold. There aren’t many overtly touching moments in any of the stories, and it seems like van den Berg keeps her characters at arms-length, perhaps overcautious against sentimentality. I don’t think she cares about her readers forming an opinion on her characters or the subject matter; she’s not a needy author. But the characters in I Hold a Wolf by the Ears are so odd, their desires so universal, that they endear to us anyway ... The writing is beautiful and the stories are some of the most peculiar I’ve ever read ... the collection isn’t \'urgent and unsettling\' so much as it is touched with grief and loneliness and weirdness, and even the shortest stories feel well-paced. This isn’t the kind of book that should be described as something that we, as a society, need at this time to poignantly sum up all the universal cultural oddities that we’re experiencing right now. It’s not here to try and heal our collective Trump-induced trauma. But spending time reading something this bizarre and captivating encourages you to see the world in a necessary, fascinating way, and a little healing might be a side effect.
Samanta Schweblin, trans. by Megan McDowell
MixedChicago Review of BooksThe novel lays out a convincing case for why one would want to inhabit a kentuki ... It’s not clear why the keepers like their kentukis ... Unless you are an exhibitionist who is more than completely laissez-faire about giving a complete stranger visual and aural access to your home, Schweblin doesn’t give any reason for you wanting to own a kentuki at all ... Schweblin’s series of vignettes...is fascinating as a character study, and the novel’s subplots can be deliciously weird and thought-provoking. But Schweblin openly ponders the meaning of her own book too often for readers to ignore the holes, and as the book fizzles to an ending, its related subplots still unconnected, we’re left unsatisfied.