PositiveThe New York TimesThe fruiting bodies in this collection are at once figurative and disturbingly literal...In the title story, the narrator forages mushrooms off the body of her lover, Agnes (\'in the valley of skin between her breasts, a miniature grove of enokis was sprouting\'; \'her chest will sometimes grow truffles\')...Together they eat them for sustenance, \'over rice with vegetables and a hint of balsamic\'...Harlan’s narrators, mostly queer women, are fascinated, even obsessed with bodies — those of their lovers, mothers, fetuses — and their regeneration, death, even consumption...Nibbling one’s cuticles is described as \'autocannibalistic,\' pregnancy a \'tumor\'...\'Parasitoid wasps,\' one narrator points out, lay their eggs in caterpillars; they \'deposit their larvae beneath the host’s skin\'...Pubescent girls submerge themselves in a lake poisoned with algal bloom...The story \'Is This You?\' raises the stakes from the intimate to the existential...When Maura’s mother publishes a nonfiction book about her daughter’s life, Maura goes into a kind of narrative tailspin in an effort to reclaim her own story...She imagines a \'litany of selves\' at various ages...As though speaking to all of the women in this collection, one of the Mauras asks the narrator: \'Are you sure your version is the right version?\'
PositiveThe New York TimesDroll Tales exhibits many elements of absurdist fiction: daft humor, illogical juxtapositions, the philosophizing of the banal, an obsession with meaninglessness...Its tone, however, is far from droll; what’s remarkable about this book is its exuberance...In \'Medusa’s Garden,\' in which a former ballerina becomes a living statue, or \'Shelves,\' about a poet who writes corporate manuals, Smyles revels in the antics of her prose...It’s arguable whether a story written entirely in pig Latin, or another composed of sentence diagrams, makes any meaningful advance on its premise...Other times, Smyles’s habit of punning or cracking (deliberately?) lame jokes can make a reader suspect that someone else is having all the fun...And so what if she is?...No matter the outcome, Droll Tales is written in such a way that seems to announce its author very much enjoyed writing it.
PositiveThe New York Time Book Review... not exactly satirical, but its best lines have the sting of topical social critique ... This type of canny writing affords a certain reading pleasure: recognition, even self-recognition, as well as some light, judgy fun ... These tensions need no resolution: We yearn for individuality even as we yearn to belong — generating anxiety, but also comedy.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewFor all Sameera’s disdain for these white men’s inauthenticity and appropriation, in other stories Freeman is guilty of her own authorial overreach. Far-flung settings and superficially drawn narrators read more as caricatures than whole characters ... In a broad treatment of identity politics, these particular stories suffer from a lack of imaginative license compared with others in the collection that sing with specificity.