Faces in the Crowd is a haunted book—the stories the characters tell are like the pieces of a broken mirror we might try to treat as a puzzle, something manageable that can be reassembled, but the pieces never fit. There are too many duplicates and holes, too much white space on the page. Unlike other novels that have a similar fragmentary or experimental structure, this novel never gets bogged down by unnecessary opaqueness or frivolous difficulty. There’s a hardened clarity to Luiselli’s prose, which makes reading each of her sentences a dark, quiet pleasure ... Faces in the Crowd is the greatest of all things: a novel meant to be reread. It’s not until the latter half of the book, once the complexities of the structure are fully apparent, that the mystery Luiselli has crafted gains exponential, existential force, which we can then trace to very first pages.
Luiselli’s unusual polyphony asserts itself everywhere as multiplicity ... Christina MacSweeney’s translations are so clean, so gorgeously rendered with Luiselli’s evident collaboration and approval, that my only regret was not seeing Luiselli’s own English at times. I am inclined to call her use of English both felicitous and unusual, and hearing her speak it made me wish I could read more of her own unique language. Still, no matter the language, her formal and stylistic inventiveness is palpable.
...lovely and mysterious ... Ms. Luiselli shuffles among the events in a staccato succession of short passages. These storylines are not simply alternating, but, the author implies, unfolding simultaneously in an uncanny correspondence ... The effect of the legerdemain is to present time as a kind of accordion, capable of being stretched apart and then folded back into single moments—which is what seems to occur in the book's phantasmagorical coda. If Ms. Luiselli's interest in the novelistic ambiguities of reality and temporality is not original—she is in debt to the great South American artificers Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar—the multilayered book she has devised brings freshness and excitement to such complex inquiries.
What grounds the novel is the emotional clarity in the writing, and what brings all these threads together is the way psychological and physical details start to rhyme within all the shifting narratives. There’s an urgency to this book that I found both challenging and engaging—as the reality of the narrative crumbled, and as the characters became their own ghosts, the feeling of loss that Luiselli is trying to explore began to resemble my own. It’s a subtle thing, when a book begins to mirror itself. It doesn’t happen often, and it requires the kind of assuredness/fearlessness that Luiselli makes look easy. I’m sure a number of readers will find this book disorienting or unapproachable (and I feel sorry for the reader who mistakes the breezy-ish, Post-It note emblazoned cover as a sign of what’s inside). Those who don’t will find something yearning and a little messy and honest.
Luiselli's novel stands apart from most Latin American fiction. She avoids worn-out narratives about drug wars and violence, and her downbeat supernaturalism feels quite different from the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez. Concerned, above all, with literature's ability to transcend time and space, Faces in the Crowd signals the appearance of an exciting female voice to join a new wave of Latino writers. The author plants ideas—like suggesting that all the characters are dead throughout—that are never confirmed. She leaves us juggling with possibilities.
...a dense play of texts that interrupt and reflect each other, illuminating the empty spaces between them ... In vignettes that succeed rapidly and move freely between the novel’s many spatial and temporal zones, the different first-person narrators ruminate through and around paradoxical notions of fiction, space and death. Their ruminations echo and respond to each other. Ghosts recur, but not quite as a conventional theme or symbol. Questions pertaining to who is alive and who is dead, what is real and what is imagined, and whether it is the real or the imagined that is alive or dead, are always present, and the answers are either absent or multiple and conflicting ... in these spaces between the vignettes...the narrator, the author, and the reader of the novel are all hiding, because it is here in these spaces that open at the end of the novel that the writing of fiction really begins.
Regardless of who I choose to be, Faces in the Crowd highlights the question itself more vividly, more urgently, than any novel I’ve read in recent years ... If this sounds complicated, it’s not. At all. Faces in the Crowd avoids all the hostile tricks common among imbricated, polyphonic novels. It’s immensely readable, and yet it resists the neat, newspaper headline description ... Faces in the Crowd is best read as a novel, not a paragraph or a tweet, and definitely not a review. It’s a unique, inward fiction whose dimensions multiply as its narrator nears the total ecstasy of writing itself.
Faces in the Crowd presents a carefully particularized, and fictionalized, world ... Faces in the Crowd does contain...loose ends ... But Luiselli is so talented that they don’t matter. When readers reach the end of the hide-and-seek that concludes the novel, the word 'Found!' is as satisfying as the denouement of the most plot-driven novel ... With its preoccupations with identity and narrative structure, Faces in the Crowd introduces American readers to an impressive young talent.
While the set-up can seem somewhat confusing—and the seemingly drifting character of much of what is recounted seem to provide little hold (note that the original Spanish title translates as 'The Weightless') the writing...is well-crafted, playful even as it touches on the very serious. Luiselli also manages particularly well maintaining a sense of fundamental uncertainty, from the mundane everyday concerns of wife and mother, to ghostly presences, to, lastly, even the ground below no longer providing stability. A wonderfully rich text—and nice slice(s)-of-New-York novel—Faces in the Crowd is— despite being less than 150 pages long—an impressively substantial work, in every sense.
...an outstanding, cerebral read that bridges the gap between poetry and prose and clearly positions the author as one of the freshest, most exciting new voices emerging from Latin American literature. The beauty of Faces in the Crowd lies in the fact that Luiselli slowly dissolves time and other boundaries like language and geography until the three stories seem to occupy the same space, and she somehow pulls it off while retaining the natural chronological progression of each individual story. The result is a novel that demands attention and forces the reader to focus on character interactions, minuscule details, and the dissolution of preconceived notions and reality. The writing here starts out normal, but then morphs into a combination of philosophical morsels, a study of the young artist as a woman, an exploration of the effects of tedium on marriage, and a daring experiment that stretches the boundaries of literary fiction until it overlaps with fantasy, poetry, biography, and surrealism.
The story lines twist and shift, as they are delivered in flashbacks and fragments ... her fiction is shaped by sophisticated plotting, playful characterization, and mesmerizing momentum. Reminiscent of Roberto Bolaño and André Gide, Luiselli navigates a dynamic, ghostly world between worlds, crisscrossing fact and fiction. Few books are as sure to baffle, surprise, and reward readers as the strange, shifty experiment that is Luiselli’s fiction debut.
A debut novel that never lets readers forget it’s a novel, toying with them on multiple levels. The Mexican author...revels in artifice while constructing a labyrinth where memory meets lies, dead literary figures live again, and the narrative spirals through decades and various voices ... fragmentary, funny, sexy, exasperating and perhaps post-postmodern ... Ultimately, a novel that is no more (or less) than words on the page.
...haunting ... Inhabited by the spectral presence of poets and a creeping desperation that branches into the psyche of the narrators, this elegant novel speaks to the transience of reality ... Luiselli plays with the idea of time and identity with grace and intuition.