... a story of queerness, love and family like you’ve never seen it before ... a wholly unique exploration of identity, sexuality and the all-consuming power of love. Masad is a masterful storyteller who offers complex, dynamic characters that continue to surprise us until the very end.
Through Maggie’s thought processes, Masad successfully subverts readers’ expectations of her novel’s classic premise too. Yes, All My Mother’s Lovers has an air of mystery to it, there are textbook elements of road trip and discovery narratives; but, it is ultimately a story about self-acceptance, one with some fresh and much-needed updates to boot. Masad—who is an excellent book critic—recognizes the predictable and formulaic movements of literary archetypes and manages to complicate many of them during Maggie’s journey while still holding onto engaging forward movement, and the pacing particularly picks up once Maggie hits the road ... This sequence leading up to Maggie’s departure is, perhaps, drawn out a stretch too long; but, it is filled with deft scaffolding and subtle clues to the novel’s ultimate trajectory ... These vignettes from the distant past also help to accomplish what is arguably Masad’s largest triumph: superb and cohesive character development. The novel is nearly free of 'extras' and bit characters; each person Maggie knows or encounters is fully rounded and given an identity full of complexity. This is particularly important considering Masad presents an inclusive and intersectional cast across race, class, age, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The novel’s plot presents many opportunities for flat and convenient character work, but, here again, the author navigates around easy traps and pitfalls ... The novel’s most notable issue, on the other hand (and forgive the cliche), is that Masad has held onto a few extra darlings. The occasional overwritten or superfluous explanation demonstrate this tendency ... The well-versed reader in the genres Maggie imagines her search for answers taking will likely anticipate the general direction of the novel’s conclusion, but the endpoint is nonetheless inventive and rewarding, because Masad never allows her characters to be either strictly good or bad, honest or deceitful, compartmentalized or united. With this novel, Masad joins an all-star lineup of 2020 debuts ... explores the distance we feel between ourselves and others, even those we love most, and how the gap in those perspectives can be an entry point for grief, empathy, and forgiveness.
... can feel thin at times, though it’s a testament to Masad’s writing that I wanted more from the world she created: more depth to Iris’s letters, which read more like camp-pen-pal correspondence than confessions from the grave; and more dimension to Maggie’s dad, Peter, who spends most of the novel out of sorts, only to drop a bombshell at the end that feels pat and underexplored ... Yet Masad is deft and incisive about the sometimes-fraught nature of mother-daughter relationships, around which loaded subtext can seem to twist and twine like Christmas lights. And she affectingly plumbs the mind-bending hugeness that is losing a parent.
Maggie is a less-than-lovable protagonist. Yet Masad’s skills as a writer keep the reader rooting for her ... The parallels and paradoxes of the lives of two women who deeply loved yet disappointed each other ring both surprising and true ... Masad has written a melancholy and memorable reminder of how little we often know about the people who raise us, not just as caretakers, but as human beings with hopes and heartaches.
... compelling ... Masad cleverly manipulates the gap between what Maggie misunderstands and what the reader, through Iris, learns. The past can be reshaped, Masad demonstrates, and our understanding of it changes through experience and discovery ... Masad captures the competitive push and pull between love and rebellion that defines mother-daughter relationships ... With warmth, empathy, and intelligence, Masad explores how grief transforms us ... Like many first novels, the book has a few shortcomings. The novel often over-explains plot details and includes too much exposition. The ending, a reversal, is too neat to be fully satisfying. And Peter, Maggie’s father, lacks dimension because he has no flaws ... Despite these minor issues, the novel offers readers a nuanced, fully realized protagonist struggling to come to terms with death, her transition to adulthood, and the leap of faith required to let people in.
The novel’s setup and accompanying journey are both absorbing, but they yield somewhat superficial discoveries about Iris. We meet the lovers of the title, but don’t ever understand many of the choices Iris makes while in their company. The book never quite reconciles the Iris we understand within the familial unit of the Krause home with the woman Maggie learns about in talking to these men. Iris remains as much a mystery to the reader as she does to Maggie. Indeed, the entire family is secretive ... One gets the urge to have this family sit down together and spill their guts. The novel also straddles a puzzling line between the socially progressive and the literary cliché ... Maggie is...an exciting, fresh, contemporary character, who still unfortunately falls into clichés of plot. With a character so woke, it feels oddly surprising when the plot falls into formulaic pits, most notably exemplified in a trip to an omniscient psychic who could easily exist on the Disney Channel. There is also the unfortunate nature of the novel’s big reveal, which feels far too easy and clean an answer for the complexity of the pages and the characters that come before ... There are many things for which All My Mother’s Lovers should be praised, not least of which is its cast of dynamic, complicated queer characters whose relationship problems have nothing to do with how they identify ... All My Mother’s Lovers is engaging, and confident, and often wry, but it unfortunately does not satisfyingly resolve the mysteries we readers want solved. Perhaps, though, that lack of answers is a resolution in and of itself.
... ambitious, cinematic ... Even though we learn that Maggie has shown a lot of the same indiscretions and flaws as her mother—she’s restless, she’s a distant partner who is afraid of commitment—we don’t get a firm sense of Iris’ identity. She’s portrayed, even in chapters written from her point of view, as a cloying narcissist or an aloof, detached woman with an excessive focus on sex ... While Maggie’s decision to hand-deliver these letters is a cool conceit, there are times when the language, even in epistolary form, is a little wooden or technical...Still, it is a nice change of pace for a book to center on the desire of an older woman like Iris, who is wanted based on her looks, but also ineffable qualities tied to her personhood ... For all her faults, by the novel’s end, Maggie is easier to understand as representative of the kinds of reckonings and rituals that save so many queer people when their families seem to desert them. All My Mother’s Lovers is an intimate, complex family portrait that follows the messy life of one queer woman who comes to understand that all relationships are untidy; that’s part of what makes them memorable.
...a generous and sharply observed chronicle of grief, sexuality and identity. With the pacing of a thriller and the heart of a romance, it more than lives up to its hype ... Capturing the full breadth and journey of each relationship in powerful, vivid snapshots, Masad lays bare the fullness of human sexuality and love ... an astute and sharply millennial unpacking of anxiety and intimacy ... Witty, sharp and unexpectedly warm, All My Mother's Lovers is a wonderfully modern chronicle of grief and identity. Masad braids together the strands of Iris’ life with care and compassion, painting a fabulous portrait of a complicated woman. This is a tautly plotted and incisive book that will upend your expectations and challenge your beliefs, but it is also a compelling and fast-paced thrill ride.
Masad’s writing style is easy and straightforward, even if her characters aren’t ... A story of good but difficult characters and the openhearted people who love them, All My Mother’s Lovers is a compassionate and insightful work.
Occasional chapters from Iris’ perspective fill in the story ... A sort of mother-daughter road-trip novel, this explores the idea that we’re all incomplete and forever subject to change, especially to those we love.
...an empathetic portrait of a difficult mother-daughter relationship intercut with grief, road trips and queer romance ... In a way, All My Mother's Lovers resembles a coming-of-age novel, inasmuch as learning to forgive and accept your parents--and the insecurities they've handed down--is a critical part of growing up ... a raw, emotional book about acceptance and the kind of complicated, messy love that sometimes takes years to comprehend.
Masad has chosen to surprise readers instead of providing them with information they need to understand Iris even though there are chapters narrated from her perspective. Getting glimpses of her trysts feels more voyeuristic than revealing. And the one letter we get to read seems macabre and manipulative—gaslighting from beyond the grave. Where the book succeeds is in depicting queer characters as multifaceted human beings who are not defined solely by their sexuality or gender. Maggie’s relationship problems aren’t because she’s a lesbian; they’re because she’s afraid of commitment. And it’s not often that fiction writers—or anyone, for that matter—depict women of middle age and beyond as beings who desire and wish to be desired ... An intriguing but uneven debut.