... eloquent, totally absorbing ... Donaldson’s easy style carries one along through Kip’s crises and Mohammed’s testing of Forster’s love for him. The parallels between the two stories are clear, but the novel is too rich to settle for easy equations. There are echoes of seminal works of Black and gay literature ... David Santos Donaldson has powerfully captured the isolating pain of a man who has spent his life being seen as 'the other.' His central character realizes that, nonetheless, one can only find oneself and one’s creative voice, through one’s messy relations with other people. Greenland is another fine contribution to a growing canon of Black queer fiction.
... not since Iris Murdoch’s The Philosopher’s Pupil have I read a novel crammed full of so many ideas and tropes that they threaten to spill out of its margins ... Ostensibly about a young queer man in Manhattan, Greenland is also a novel of identity and place, but it is less about claiming one’s own territory than deciding who gets to come inside ... If Donaldson did nothing else in this novel but tell Kip’s story, his sensitive investigation into isolation would make it notable...Yet Donaldson is after something larger than literary New York’s blind spots ... These toggles aren’t merely fancy jump cuts; the stories and eras blur together like overlaid transparencies ... Amid all this is a lot of sex — all of it meaningful in Donaldson’s hands ... runs over with philosophy, psychology, politics, literature, family sagas, food, beauty, style, history, geography. This is a book with respect for neither the margins of the page nor those that confine us in the real world. Some may find its bountiful overflows confusing or unnecessary; I found them mostly captivating. Whatever your personal tolerance for the disorder along the way, Donaldson sustains a plot that ends with ecstasy, action and reconciliation, satisfyingly concluding a novel of ideas that is also about one queer Black man finding his true north.
Donaldson’s painting of this different time and place is so limited, I am hard-pressed to call this a historical novel in the usual sense of the term. Nonetheless, this novel is an evocative and important story for today ... Maya Angelou, police violence torn from today’s headlines, climate change—nothing is left unexamined as a Black queer man tries to escape the history of colonialism, racial and gendered, and ends up, in fact, alone in glacial Greenland.
At its best, Greenland is a smart, exhilarating novel about racism and self-knowledge whose unwieldiness is compensated for by its daring ... If these plotlines sound a little overheated, well, sometimes they are. In fact, I put the novel aside twice. But Donaldson's own ingenious voice as a writer kept drawing me back; so did his humor ... 'Only connect' is, of course, Forster's famous epigram from Howard's End, a poignant, at times desperate plea for connection among people who are as much mysteries to themselves as to others. In Greenland, Donaldson reworks 'only connect' to be a paean to self-connection, the integration of ambivalent identities into something like a wryly formed human being for our time.
Donaldson communicates complex issues of race and sexuality in a nuanced and multifaceted narrative ... Perceptive and personal, this compelling novel eloquently clarifies ongoing issues of race and racism while authentically telling a unique story. Highly recommended.
Mr. Donaldson plants intriguing narrative Easter eggs throughout this therapeutic journey—a gun is introduced in the opening paragraph, there’s a touch of magical realism, and then there’s the mysterious meaning of the title. It’s quickly obvious, though, that Forster and Mohammed’s love story is, like these other conceits, just an incidental part of Kip’s self-actualization. Mr. Donaldson projects a lot of 21st-century terminology onto Mohammed’s consciousness ... Artistically, this is a serious failing, but to dwell on it is probably to miss the point. Greenland belongs to a category of novels that I have reluctantly come to accept falls outside the purview of literary criticism. Its purpose is to give voice to a particular point of view in order to provide affirmation to whoever would be affirmed by it. All a reviewer can do, I suppose, is share enough information to let readers decide whether or not it speaks for them.
Besides being a talented fiction writer, Donaldson is a psychotherapist, and his debut novel is psychologically acute in its portrayal of a queer Black man crumbling under the weight of personal, historical, and racial trauma. Despite heavy subject material, Kip’s irreverent, grandiose narration provides moments of memorable levity.
... assured ... The multiple story lines intrigue, and the writing is crisp, but Donaldson overstuffs the narrative with ideas to the point that it loses shape. The author clearly has talent, and his work’s many fine points suggest he’s one to keep an eye on.