Graduating into the long maw of an American recession, Sneha's moved to Milwaukee for an entry-level corporate job that, grueling as it may be, is the key that unlocks every door: she can pick up the tab at dinner with her new friend Tig, get her college buddy Thom hired alongside her, and send money to her parents back in India. She begins dating women—soon developing a burning crush on Marina, a beguiling and beautiful dancer who always seems just out of reach. But before long, trouble arrives. Painful secrets rear their heads; jobs go off the rails; evictions loom.
Mathews offers us a panoramic view of mingled desires, fears, and joys that will be familiar to readers of Eliot and Austen, but she does them one better: her novel is about an underrepresented first-generation immigrant, and it’s incredibly gay ... manages the rare feat of being both lyrical and page-turning ... t’s this focus on Sneha’s desires that makes the novel particularly luminous. Simple actions — sleeping with whomever you want to sleep with, making meaningful connections with your friends — become radical, a message that will be especially resounding in a contemporary America where LGBTQIA2S+ rights are under attack ... The novel is at its best when we’re given a clear glimpse of the emotional shibboleth separating Sneha from Marina ... Mathews’s brilliance lies in her ability to capture the terra infirma of Sneha’s emotional landscape, resistant to the superficial diagnostic categories of American pop psych. Barred from being difficult, Sneha has become a mystery to herself ... Mathews is careful not to make examples of her characters, however; there is no how to act in this book, just a lot of clumsy, well-intentioned acting. In a truly genius move, the novel doesn’t value Sneha’s friends over Marina or vice versa: all of them are swept up in the chaotic epochs of their own histories, trying to survive and loving each other throughout. This love is in large part what makes the novel so inviting ... Mathews is a gifted prose stylist ... The prose, coupled with the characters’ love, makes for a novel that is incredibly warm, considering its difficult subject matter. American xenophobia, figuring out one’s life post–economic collapse, volatility, and heartbreak: all this is cast in the inviting glow of Mathews’s smart and elegant sentences. This is one reason among many that the novel is so hard to put down ... Few debuts are as precisely drawn as this one, but then All This Could Be Different is an exceptional novel. With characters compassionately rendered and a story that speaks to the experience of a first-generation queer millennial, All This Could Be Different is the kind of book many readers will need as much as they want, and we’re lucky to have it.
... the stuff all good bildungsromans are made of ... What starts as a story about romantic love quickly turns into one about the power of community, how the people we surround ourselves with can together be the great love of our life ... Mathews has a wonderful eye for the things that make friendship and community just as valuable as romance — and also for how friends can come together and fall apart just as easily as the lovers in a romantic comedy ... proves the corny adage true: Perhaps the real treasure was the friends we made along the way. Mathews has a big heart and a sharp tongue.
... wonderfully immersive and concentrated ... a novel so good I was torn by the incompatible desires to never set it down and never finish it ... the characters’ hopes, dreams, and desires are so fully rendered on the page that it’s difficult not to absorb them ... A masterclass in character development, All This Could Be Different provides a textured view of friendship. It looks at not just how we show up for and tend to the people we care about but also how we fail them ... queer as fuck. And not only in its dating storylines or queer sex scenes but also in its rendering of friendship as every bit as propulsive, impactful, radiant, and heartbreaking as romantic relationships. As every bit as messy as family, too. It is perhaps the greatest depiction of what chosen family really means without ever explicitly using those words ... smart, layered, and often very serious, but it is also very horny (and none of those things contradict each other but rather work together) ... There’s a sex scene involving a car’s gear stick that I don’t even want to describe too much so as not to spoil its wonders, so strange and hot and real. The kind of queer sex I crave from literature, exploratory and revelatory ... Mathew’s prose is remarkable throughout, short, bright bursts of fragments between languid, snaking sentences that surprise ... Whether she’s writing about Gantt charts or economic turmoil or oysters or blue and green or sex or hunger, Mathews’ sentences seduce and swathe. Here is a sprawling novel that’s still intimate at every turn, compacting so much into its shape, like a fistful of sand. And it is a testament to the strength of the character writing that I genuinely feel like I could read about them for much longer, that I didn’t want the story to ever end. But so much of this book is also about eschewing endings, about imagining the future and also recognizing the way other people ripple-effect our lives. So even its ending doesn’t feel like a conclusion so much as an embrace and a gentle nudge forward ... the novel dares to suggest that even within our interpersonal conflicts with each other, there are chances for connection and for growth. We just have to allow ourselves to take them.