Like Franzen or DeLillo, Alcott brings awe-inspiring exactitude and lyricism to her dive into three of America’s most iconic moments ... In her exquisite and poignant reimagining of historic events, Alcott dissects their impacts in a sweeping yet intimate saga that challenges assumptions and assesses the depths of human frustration.
...sprawling but absorbing ... The emotional heart of the book belongs to their son, Wright, whose childhood Alcott renders with supreme tenderness ... As Alcott’s ambitious (if slightly overstuffed) book ranges over three decades of American history, the era’s defining events drift in and out of the lens. The reader can almost imagine leafing through a pile of old Life magazines ... the real energy of the novel is not in Alcott’s rendering of these events, but rather in shimmering, knife-sharp descriptions of small and often devastating moments of individual experience within those larger histories ... Some of the book’s most memorable sections offer glimpses of the period through the narrow aperture of everyday human longing, like the way Alcott masterfully captures Wright’s humble wish for the kind of middle-class American childhood his mother rails against.
It’s possible to log this scene with the moon-shaped lamp as a throwaway on first reading, a moment of peak twee in the kind of hermetic reality that only exists in the imagination of certain film auteurs, or the authors of literary fiction. But Alcott is a wider-angle novelist than this, and the book’s final third opens up a different frontier altogether ... It is an overtly feminist response, in the covert action of fiction, to the literature of the space program that came before it—think of Norman Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon (1970) and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (1979)—and a bold self-guided launch into the thermosphere from which the Major American Novel winks down indifferently at us ... It’s not easy to graft so many cultural touchstones and political movements into one convincing narrative whole, and the procedure doesn’t always take ... Alcott is unsparing in her account of the depersonalizing effects of sexual relationships with men ... Fay’s ambition, at the start of America Was Hard to Find, is to make life 'happen more deeply inside her.' Alcott’s novel is a finely calibrated machine that does the same for us.
Ms. Alcott is an impressionistic stylist capable of lovely, luminous effects on the brushstroke-level of the sentence ... The book’s chapters are short and evanescent, inspired sketches rather than developed scenes. The vagueness of the aesthetic fits incongruously with a decade-spanning historical chronicle, and particularly with subjects like the Vietnam protest movement and, later on, the AIDS epidemic. Such writing seems well suited to fantasy, and because nothing is more like a fairy tale than space travel, it makes sense that Ms. Alcott is at her best in zero gravity.
Kathleen Alcott writes with pulsating, intense prose ... The voices of Fay, Vincent and Wright are marvelously crystal-clear ... Alcott has a powerful ability to separate these three characters into equal and opposing forces ... Her extensive research into the Apollo program, the Weatherman underground protest group and the AIDS crisis in America serve her well as she intertwines facts with fiction. America Was Hard to Find leaves readers wanting more of this story and everything else Alcott has written.
Alcott (Infinite Home, 2015, etc.) portrays in evocative snapshots an inner core of solitude and fiercely individual rectitude in each that binds the lovers yet precludes a lasting relationship ... The book’s final third, centered on Wright’s adult life in 1980s San Francisco, suggests that Alcott aims to synthesize three personal odysseys into a larger statement—but what that might be is obscured by her elliptical narrative development. Nonetheless, her empathy for troubled souls, rendered in haunting, impressionistic prose, makes a powerful emotional impact, giving the novel a staying power beyond that of more neatly finished fiction ... Uneven and at times frustratingly enigmatic but impressively ambitious and extremely well-written.
...[a] richly ruminative novel ... Alcott (Infinite Home) humanizes her characters by focusing intensively on their thoughts and feelings as they grapple with the grand significance of their times and personal experiences ... Alcott’s novel is a sharp and moving reminder of the human dimension of even the most outsize historical events.