...the everydayness that belies the shape of typical narratives—or at least the atypical shape of a narrative—is exactly how All Back Full proceeds ... The book is presented as a 'novel in three acts,' but in its formal playfulness, it could just as easily be viewed as a novel in drama, a drama with novelistic gestures, or a parody of drama wrapped in novelistic discourse ... In Lopez’s hands, the ordinary is made strange; it reminds itself to us, fraught with inexplicability. Regular old life is creepy ... Lopez has been compared to Beckett, but his humor carries more oddball buoyancy, so that play peeks through the atmosphere of existential confusion. The sentences, mostly declarative and austere, accumulate meaning as they orbit off-kilter through a subject in dialogue, picking up a momentum engineered by qualifications and inversions of wit. Just when it seems that an idea has been drawn out to its logical limit, its absolute gut punch, Lopez redoubles. Part of the pleasure of All Back Full lies in the question of how far it—whatever it is, and it is probably life—can go.
Whatever you want to call it, the result is a languid, complex, and stylish primer for our post-truth world ... The compact stage Lopez builds around his characters makes room for their musings on the quotidian, related by a hapless narrator who knows either too much or too little ... You can't trust what anyone says, even if you thoroughly enjoy how they're saying it. Lopez says he works primarily on the sentence level, and it shows. With one sleight against convention, he manages to transform pleasant chitchat into electric prose ... Despite the narrator's penchant for relaying academic-sounding essays, Lopez methodically undermines the idea of the omniscient storyteller, revealing how easy it is to forge fact out of fiction. In the age of alternative facts, Lopez is the unlikely source of a timely lesson.
All Back Full walks the line between a play and a novel, and it does so brilliantly. In fact, the book is explained as a 'novel in three acts,' and that's exactly what it is. This is a novel about the day-to-day grind, about the way marriage slowly corrodes, and about the strangeness of friendships that come and go. However, and this is what pushes this novel into must-read territory, Lopez is a master of both language and delivery ... Lopez is an entertaining author with a knack for dialogue and a superb eye for detail who is not afraid to play and experiment with storytelling. This book proves that he pulls it off while making it look easy.
...how to explain the strange pull of this novel? It’s risk-taking work that, despite its realistic milieu, never approaches realism; nobody speaks in phrases that sound natural. Eventually a secret or two is revealed, and as the book rolls to its end, the work of Pinter comes to mind, with elliptical menace lurking in the corners ... Fans of Lopez will understand what he’s up to; others may be surprised to discover the novel, like a slug in the couple’s driveway, has inched its way into their heads and hearts.
Through the narrator’s sardonic expressions, short sentences, clipped paragraphs, and pointedly unreliable descriptions, Lopez forms a cutting, dry humor and—to match the characters’ bleak moods—a pervasive sense of boredom ... The novel’s motifs eventually intertwine in a satisfying ending that, like much of what’s said, is open to interpretation and misinterpretation. Fans of Lopez’s previous work will enjoy his latest, as will patient newcomers with an interest in drama and metafiction.