PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... engaging ... Author Chin is at her best when describing the immigrant experience, the layers of belonging, the complexity of diasporic communities. In contrast, the love story at the center of the novel — Edwina’s crumbling marriage to Marlin — is thinner and less compelling. Marlin is already gone when the book begins, and the flashbacks do not adequately flesh him out. Edwina’s own internal struggles about what she wants in life are more vividly drawn than her longings for the ghostlike Marlin. Her struggle over loving or leaving America feels much more visceral and central to her future ... Throughout the novel, Chin makes excellent use of tech and engineering terms as metaphors ... In the end, Edwina’s objections are disregarded, the issues she raised declared \'edge cases that are outside of the scope\' of the first release. In other words, she herself — and her perspective as an Asian female immigrant—is an edge case. But her voice from the edge — perceptive, funny, introspective, smart, wry, calling to us from the margins — is one worth listening to.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksLende’s writing has a homespun, plainspoken quality; at certain moments, she writes like a grandmother telling a meandering tale through a series of slow-paced anecdotes and tangents that require patience from the reader ... But don’t let her artlessness fool you. She is well read and whip smart, and her undying optimism and faith in her fellow citizens offer a needed buoy in our current election climate. Her book is timely and relevant ... Politics matters, Lende reminds us, on every level — maybe, especially, the local — and we all need to do our part.
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of Books... weaves together elements of the traditional pilgrimage narrative with a realistic account of the challenges of contemporary life, creating a fascinating if not entirely successful amalgamation in which characters worry about cellphone service in one scene and are visited by a magical bird in the next ... This crescendo drags on for too long, however, nearly completely subsuming the interesting narratives of the women’s real lives that Aboulela has so carefully constructed. The symbolism of the visions is blatant and moralistic, and readers may well find themselves impatient to surface from this world and witness the women return from holiday utterly transformed — or at least somewhat changed ... While the narrative does lead where it promised — to Lady Evelyn’s grave — the bloated dream sequence permanently distances readers from the heart of the novel: the day-to-day lives and struggles of three dynamic women.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksReading like an extended meditative essay rather than a traditional memoir or autobiography, The Cost of Living is about retelling one’s story — and about continuing that story past its expected ending, which, for a woman, is the cliché of being married with children and living happily ever after ... At times, Levy leaves out as much as she tells us, coming across as someone who is not at peace with the tortuous course her life has taken. But how many of us are? As her subtitle tells us, this is a working autobiography, a work in progress. As she writes toward the end, Levy is not interested in \'the major female character that has always been written\' but rather in \'a major unwritten female character.\' And, here, Levy has taken the first steps to creating that character, leaving it to others to develop her more fully.