RaveThe Seattle TimesA reader who has forged through the many dense, overlapping hells in Klay’s colossus of a book—from Afghanistan to Colombia to Yemen—may very well weep over the confused boy’s demise. Not only for the pointlessness of the tragedy but because of the enormity of the interconnected global war machine that caused it. It’s a machine that Klay, a former U.S. Marine who served in the Iraq War from 2007 to 2008, methodically describes with grim precision and often startling language ... Building on exhaustive research and a seemingly endless capacity to develop rich, psychologically complex characters, Klay captures the wretchedness of neglected Colombian villages brutalized by competing murderers ... There is an unblinking forcefulness in Klay’s accounts of psychotic punishments whimsically inflicted on innocent people by renegade militia and the sometimes meaningless results of official tactical missions.
MixedThe Seattle TimesThe premise holds delicious satirical potential ... about halfway through the tale, disastrous and inexplicable events turn Leave the World Behind into a claustrophobic drama-comedy about capable people turning inward from fear, stuck in tight loops of useless conjecture and indecision, regressing into near-feral primitiveness ... It’s quite a ride, but the bubble setting in which bad goes to worse also becomes a trap that Alam fails to infuse with congruent ideas ... it’s easy to get the sense Leave the World Behind is going to be powered by frenetic, almost smug observations of the flotsam of middle-class family life ... Nothing would have been sacrificed in Alam’s group portrait of panicky cluelessness by adding a little dimension to the principals. There are many times Alam doesn’t really tell a story so much as review the one in his head ... there are times when a reader’s encounter with a character is less like revelation than scanning Alam’s mental notes on that person ... Yet there are a number of moments of startling grace.
PositiveThe Seattle Times... a sprawling affair that Christie manages to keep both congruent and ultimately illuminating by paying close, but not constricting, attention to legacies that characters often know nothing about ... Christie keeps these invisible strings just taut enough to keep the action logical, without sacrificing imagination.
PositiveThe Seattle Times... ambitious, incisive ... The believable and culturally diverse characters in Yellow Earth, all unknowingly buffeted by the same obscure oligarchs and corrupt forces, suggest a lot about the author’s faith in the sweeping possibilities of a novel. He pleases a reader in that way, but he can also go off the rails, sometimes, while exploring niche subjects ... But those occasional sections of Yellow Earth, where a reader might glaze over for a moment, are forgiven in light of the way that all sides in the larger story crash in on themselves at the climax.
Terry Tempest Williams
PositiveThe Seattle Times... covers a lot of ground, from Williams’ fervent support of the federal government’s Wilderness Act and Endangered Species Act to the plights of Rwanda’s gorillas, the vanishing of polar bears and fishing villages as ice melts in the Arctic Circle ... The book takes readers from one emotional extreme to another.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
PositiveThe Seattle TimesAn engrossing, comparative analysis of the four presidents Goodwin has written about most often (Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Johnson), the book reveals key parallels between them concerning formative early experiences and development of nascent leadership; followed by further growth through adversity; and how occupying the White House requires one’s leadership to evolve amid an era’s pressing problems ... Goodwin distills lessons on the value of real political experience.