MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewAmbitious in its themes and were it a bigger book, more specific in its world-building, and were the parallel narratives treated with the same depth as the main story, the novel could have presented a much more powerful statement on the interminability of the Black woman’s struggle to assert her own personhood ... Gaps in the picture Rashad paints raised questions for me, speed bumps that interrupted the flow of the reading experience ... But perhaps these are the concerns of someone who has read too much speculative fiction ... When the novel explores these questions, it is at its most fascinating. And its most impressive.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewFor a piece of speculative fiction to succeed, the foundational abnormality must feel present and lived in. Not scaffolding, but substructure. Yet for a good portion of this book, the actual witchery falls away. The island section of the book is thrilling, but with Jo’s return to her old life, the speculative elements of the novel’s world-building retreat, like the island itself, to the realm of hearsay and rumor. We are left with a gendered McCarthyism ... Sometimes, the idea of timeliness can sit like a curtain over a novel, both emphasizing and obscuring the work itself. \'Timeliness\' can infuse a book with greater personal and social resonance, but it can also hollow out a novel, encouraging readers to see “issue” rather than \'story\' ... It can be tempting to read The Women Could Fly, which comes in the shadow of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and call the book timely. But the relationship at the heart of this novel — between Jo and her mercurial mother — is much closer to timeless.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe novel’s movement isn’t forward so much as in spirals and, in parts, the tale becomes unmoored as the reader is plunged into a profusion of bad-luck back stories. But when the book’s vertebrae returns, so does narrative propulsion. The novel’s prose-mechanics—cab rides transformed into recountings of characters’ personal histories—make sense given Nephthys’s occupation. But what is among the book’s greatest strengths, the care taken to deepen our understanding of these characters, ends up creating its greatest flaw: uneven pacing ... Creatures of Passage resists comparison. It’s reminiscent of Beloved as well as the Odyssey, but perhaps its most apt progenitor is the genre of epic poems performed by the djelis of West Africa ... these otherwise clashing elements become, in this cast, a cohesive whole, telling us that this, too, is America.
RaveNPRThe novel\'s reach could have easily exceeded its grasp, given the weighty themes and its span, but Mbue reaches for the moon and, by the novel\'s end, has it firmly held in her hands ... The novel is kaleidoscopic in design, but one girl, Thula, becomes perhaps the closest thing to a protagonist ... But Mbue, gloriously, avoids the trap of depicting the Story of Africa as pure and unmitigated exploitation and slow-moving calamity. Some of the novel\'s most thrilling sections are those that follow Thula as she fights to depose the dictator whose complicity has eviscerated her home ... Though Mbue\'s novel serves as elegy to a land lost, it is also a celebration of something less tangible gained, whatever it is that\'s captured in the voice of a first-generation diasporic Kosawan asking their Big Papa or their Yaya to please tell them a story of the old country.
N. K. Jemisin
RaveTor.com... a reclaiming of the New York that Lovecraft vilified. In perhaps the greatest fuck-you to the man behind the Cthulhu mythos that has had such widespread influence on speculative fiction, Jemisin gives voice and human-ness to the objects of Lovecraft’s hatred ... one of the most stunning features of this book is its positioning of capital waging war against the human beings of a place as a sort of Cthulhu ... Nobody-makes-fun-of-my-family-but-me energy thrums through the novel ... readers are shown a New York beyond the tunnels and bridges and roads named after men who no longer exist. [Jemisin] shows a New York, not of unmade communities, but of remade ones, the scar tissue stronger than unbroken skin.
PositiveTor.com... in all of these things lives a writer finally able to marry novelistic tendencies to the form. The faithfully dated prose and the constraints of this story’s form as recitation or testimonial allow Coates ample room to both dramatize his arguments and encapsulate them in single lines of cutting dialogue, to carry an entire longform essay’s worth of insights in the arms of a single paragraph-long interaction between two characters. The result is a powerful, if somewhat bloated, book that seeks to do so much. Sometimes, perhaps, too much. But while the moonshot may be off, the fistfuls of firmament Coates is able to bring back to us are a wonder to behold ... In highlighting families, Coates made his characters individuals ... Elements of the adventure novel, of the heist novel, of the romance are all there. But Coates expertly subverts the expectations each of those labels carries. The women in Hiram’s story are not props. They aren’t triggers for the protagonist’s man-pain. They are individuals with their own desires and fears and anguish and hope. They exist with an interiority as profound as Hiram’s. The book does not lack for scene-stealers ... This novel lives within that particular orbit of hurt, the pain attending the rending of families under chattel slavery. And so many of the novel’s most powerful moments stem precisely from its positioning here ... the novel is guilty of trying to say—to be—too many things at once ... There’s an almost cosmic unfairness in the falling-apart of the metaphor-as-entreaty in this necessary and expansive novel. That isn’t to say it would be a stronger work were the magic excised from it. Indeed, it’s precisely this element that most distinguishes the novel and makes it an incisive and memorable and beautiful thing. This is a good book. A really, really good book. But its point collapses beneath the weight of the metaphor. Remembering is what brings us forward, but who is us? ... At points, the book’s knees do buckle under the weight of what it’s trying to do. But it’s cognizant of the foundation on which it stands