RaveThe AtlanticMariana Enriquez’s grand, eloquent, and startling new novel... reveals how sometimes, only fiction can fully illuminate the monstrous, indescribable, and ultimately shattering aspects of our reality ... This novel operates as a kind of radio, constantly switching among stations. At moments the main narratives pipe through clearly, and at others we find ourselves attuned to staticky, liminal frequencies. This is a haunted story ... Many of the set pieces in this novel... will scan to certain readers as genre flourishes, genre having somehow become a catchall term that, among other functions, consigns unfamiliar ways of being and living to imaginary realms. Yet this novel—powered by urgent, image-drenched language rendered beautifully by the translator Megan McDowell—convincingly captures what it feels like when your life is suddenly interrupted by a series of events that are so unimaginable and devastating, they seem unreal. It turns out that a surreal event is best described in surreal terms.
RaveThe Atlantic... knotty, prismatic ... Her response makes sense in our era of alternate realities—movies and television shows depict characters who slip from one realm to another; conservatives and liberals no longer seem to share any meaningful understanding of the truth; the metaverse will soon present us with digital worlds of our own choosing (or so we’re meant to believe) ... a more concise affair, both in its narrative scope and its page count. Yet it is a robust tale, especially in its treatment of Wayne, who dies but never really seems dead ... Serpell code-switches with ease, an ultimately crucial skill in a story that abounds with fluctuating realities. The book swerves from a realistic chronicle that bears all the markers of a grief tale to one that seems infused with magic, from standard-English dialogue to a pitch-perfect rendering of African American Vernacular English. Serpell also references and builds upon pop culture’s alternate-reality obsession, and the narrative vertigo that these stories induce in us. When I began reading the novel, I knew that Wayne had drowned in the ocean—but the power of Serpell’s storytelling was such that as the narrative progressed, I stopped being so sure.
MixedThe NationYanagihara’s new book, To Paradise, is an übernovel, and it demonstrates all the strengths and weaknesses of the budding genre ... a broad, ambitious tale that engages with contemporary life in audacious and occasionally compelling ways. Yet it also falls prey to the very form it is trying to master. Yanagihara looms over every section of this novel, constantly reminding us of her presence through her authorial choices. We rarely have a chance to inhabit the narrative she has so carefully composed ... The only real connection between these narratives, the thread that keeps them tethered to each other despite themselves, is the various names that recur across the text: Eden and Adams and Edward and Charles and David ... Yanagihara can be a lovely writer. There are stretches of To Paradise where her sentences flow beautifully and her pacing is immaculate. She’s also a wizard of description ... Yanagihara also explores many vital themes. In the first section alone, her characters discuss colonialism, racism, and class, and she approaches these issues from new and unexpected angles because of her compellingly counterfactual world-building ... The ambition on display in To Paradise is thrilling, but it also comes with costs ... Yanagihara is certainly capable of crafting an immersive, engrossing story; whatever one thinks of her previous novels, they all operate as stories in the traditional sense by accumulating detail and density in order to transport readers from their own lives to imaginary worlds of Yanagihara’s creation. At times, To Paradise does the same. For the most part, though, this is a novel that reads as a catalog of obsessions. If you don’t share them, you are on your own.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewLaskey composes elegant portraits of each character, drawing us into intimate worlds that pulse with light and sound, only to swiftly guide our attention elsewhere; if that character reappears at all, it will be in a minor role. Some voices are even more compelling than others, but over all Laskey inhabits each of their perspectives credibly, exhibiting a vocal range that grants the reader a panoramic view of the proceedings ... In Laskey’s artful hands this moral is delivered with such conviction and grace that it somehow feels fresh, and, thus, essential.