By shifting back and forth through time and between its main characters, Murphy (a prize-winning journalist who has been reporting on AIDS/HIV for more than two decades) is able to transcend rote narrative in favour of something more powerful. Readerly expectations are confounded at every turn ... It is a powerful and rewarding reading experience. Stylistically challenging, emotionally devastating (both positive and negative), realistic (even when it shifts into an imagined future) and impassioned, it is one of the finest novels we are likely to encounter this year.
...[a] rich, complicated story ... a compelling portrait of the community of activists that transformed queer life in the 1980s and ’90s ... Murphy’s novel is one of the few serious attempts I’ve encountered in literature to explore the crisis of meth addiction among gay men...No book has made me feel so intensely not just the ravages of AIDS but also the devastating cost of activism ... If the novel’s first hundred pages are disorienting and occasionally plodding, the last hundred have a rare narrative sweep and force.
...[a] sprawling, seething, sumptuous tale of the city’s haves and have-nots under the long shadow of Aids ... Tim Murphy eschews chronology, following the intersecting fortunes of these six people over the next four decades by way of kaleidoscopic scenes. The result is disorienting, jagged; appropriate in a novel so concerned with trauma and its aftereffects, with drugs and their sometimes virtuous, sometimes malign reshapings of reality ... Murphy is exceptionally skilled at writing about addiction, the intertwining of bliss and abjection ... What makes this novel remarkable, though, is the way it captures the full arc of Aids in New York ... here have been several whopping New York novels in the last couple of years, but none of them possesses Christodora’s generosity, its weathered and unflinching faith in what people can achieve.
...a rich and complicated New York saga that bounces around in time — 2001, 2009, 1981, 1992, and on to 2021, each chapter shifting the spotlight among the characters. It’s an exciting read, sometimes a little confusing, but ultimately all the pieces fit together; the reader’s patience is rewarded ... AIDS drops like a stone into the pool these characters live in. Those of us whose lives were deeply affected by it, and have lived on past it, will recognize and admire the crescendo and diminuendo Murphy traces ... Capacious yet streamlined, it is a very fine book.
Although it takes some time to establish its structure and narrative flow, the work that eventually emerges is powerful and compelling. It feels deeply relevant even when it covers events set several decades in the past ... it can be initially disorienting to see characters age and grow younger from page to page. Where this goes, ultimately, is toward a greater understanding of what motivates these characters ... This is a novel that abounds with ambition, but it largely succeeds in grappling with a host of grand themes.