RaveThe NationCook forces readers to question the limits of their humanity in the face of extreme circumstances—supernatural, environmental, futuristic, or a combination of the three ... Cook’s debut novel The New Wilderness towers above the stories in her collection. It takes on a future Earth so polluted that people are struggling to survive in urban society ... The emotional core of the novel—and its true source of brilliance—lies in the relationship between Bea and Agnes, the most intricate and morally arresting relationship Cook has conjured to date ... Cook asks: How can we morally balance the initial sacrifice with the later abandonment? How much are we willing to justify such a reprehensible action, considering the brutality of life in the Wilderness to which Bea was exposed? ... If you strip away its apocalyptic backdrop, the novel presents fresh commentary about group-think, human psychology, and governance ... Cook undergirds these human dynamics with bewildering, otherworldly terrains ... Cook makes the appeal of climate fiction apparent: Novels like hers can help us more deeply understand the estrangement and horror produced by each extreme weather pattern or mass extinction event we read about in the news.
MixedLos Angeles Review of BooksDeath in Her Hands has some strengths. The novel works slowly and carefully, tracking a woman’s descent into madness at a nearly excruciating pace. It showcases Moshfegh’s mastery of character psychology ... Vesta Gul gives Sara Goldfarb (portrayed by Ellen Burstyn in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream) a run for her money ... And yet, the fact remains that a crazy woman’s fantasies comprise the majority of Death in Her Hands ... Large stretches of the novel feel intentionally agonizing (we spend 20 pages with Vesta as she types things into AskJeeves.com at her local library). Moshfegh’s use of thematic and linguistic repetition, which in her other works conjures a haunting, cerebral trance, feels just a little too circular this time around. As we listen to Vesta’s continual creation and destruction of Magda’s story, we hear Moshfegh writing through her narrator, which isn’t necessarily a good thing ... Death in Her Hands feels like another exercise in the end. There is a premise and a narrator. Both are spread quite thin. The concluding sequence shines, but the majority of the novel falls flat. Though Vesta is a more compelling narrator than Eileen, and her story works more effectively than Eileen’s, Death in Her Hands is too light on the bitter bleakness that powered My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and it most certainly does not possess the crafted perfection of Moshfegh’s short stories or her novella.
RaveEpiphany ZineGary Lutz’s writing is untranslatable; rather, any Lutz translation would be so far afield from the original wording and meaning of his writing that it might as well not be a translation at all. A mimicry, perhaps. But probably a mockery. That’s because Lutz writes into the core of actions, thoughts, and feelings with such a drastic disregard for how the English language typically works that his writing reads like a language all its own ... There are few if any American writers who can vocalize the crushing despair of late capitalist malaise in a mere five sentences ... Brevity is Lutz’s strength. Severe, crushing, prose so compacted, abstract, and emotionally resonant that you have no idea what he is saying but you know exactly what he means. The best of Stories in the Worst Way and Partial List of People to Bleach contain such manic fervor and confessional density that they feel like holy chunks of Lutz’s soul coughed up onto the page. Gary Lutz is perhaps the best American writer of very short fictions. His best works are superior to those of his many imitators. Hyperbole, you say? Read the book and see.
RaveEpiphanyLerner is brilliant, and his novels resemble doctored and polished transcripts of his mind’s inner workings ... Lerner’s political commentary weighs heavier in Topeka School than it does in his other novels ... The Topeka School is a technical masterwork. As always, Lerner’s prose is electric. His ambitious shifts in perspective, tense, and time are flawlessly executed, particularly when you consider the relatively straightforward approaches he took to his first two novels. It feels as though Lerner has been training for this moment his entire career ... Even masterworks have their flaws, however, and Topeka’s is overreach. Lerner’s insistence upon interrupting the perfect magic of his fiction to say the words \'Donald Trump,\' or their equivalents, feels unnecessary ... Lerner doesn’t need to interrupt himself; he’s already saying everything he needs to say ... The Topeka School is an utter delight that will stand the test of time.
RaveEpiphany... puts Evenson’s staggering ventriloquism on display, incorporating elements of science fiction, horror, fantasy, translation, poetry, and myth, often within a single story ... The collection’s title story is its longest and strongest tale ... [Evenson] can even make his characters’ dreams compelling, dreams which sometimes span multiple pages, to the point where you lose track of where the dream ends and where the story returns, a trick that underscores the sense of sleeplessness underpinning the tone of Evenson’s writing ... proves Evenson’s mastery of the short story form. I would go as far as to say that Song… gives Ted Chiang’s new collection Exhalation a run for its money. The comparison is apt because, like Chiang, Evenson is often categorized as a \'genre\' writer, despite the fact that his stories are often more than stories; they are philosophical meditations on what it means to be alive.
RaveEpiphanyAt the outset, Whitehead’s prose is so dry that one wonders if they are reading a book of nonfiction despite the fact that it carries the word \'novel\' on its cover ... as Elwood nears Nickel’s darkest secrets, the novel’s dry tone becomes a lens through which readers can observe the wretched evils of American racism and the genocide of young black boys up close ... Most of this phenomenal prose surfaces during the novel’s third section, which coincidentally contains the book’s strongest structural scaffolding ... finishes as a page-turner ... feels like a spiritual sequel to The Underground Railroad ... One only hopes Whitehead continues to use his prodigious talents to document these national horrors. Societies cannot grow, change, or reconcile without artworks like his.
RaveEpiphany\"Freudenberger’s ability to turn the language of physics into poetic prose delights, and her approach to narration deepens the resonance of the story. She weaves through time effortlessly, detailing experiences Helen and Charlie shared as undergraduates at Harvard at one moment and delving into Helen’s grief about Charlie in the next. Where this fluidity could get confusing or unwieldy in the hands of a lesser writer, Freudenberger displays mastery with her voice, and the novel transcends time but never feels directionless ... Freudenberger’s strong, crisp characterization and nuanced psychological exploration make for intriguing and thought-provoking storytelling.\
Gregory Blake Smith
PositiveNewsdayAll five of these stories unfold centuries apart but geographically on top of one another, which makes for a fun game of drawing connections between the five timelines ... The themes that resonate across the five narratives imbue the novel with grander meaning as a whole ... Unfortunately, the novel’s conclusion is somewhat unsatisfactory, and a couple of the individual narratives would benefit from a little more attention during the book’s convoluted final act. Nonetheless, with The Maze at Windermere, Smith says far more than 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'; he demonstrates that various forms of American prejudice and exclusion are so ingrained in our nation’s psyche that we will never find our way past them.