Eggers paints a fine and sympathetic portrait of a life that is never quite unbearable, but never all that far off ... America has lost its bravery, Eggers tells us, and it can be found in nature, in open spaces, in shucking off the trappings of mall life and the media and consumerism. It’s hardly a novel message, but Eggers renders it with such passion and good humour, and describes the 'land of mountains and light' in such stirring, lustrous prose, that we can’t help but feel its truth anew ... This is a novel that won’t please everyone: Josie’s story is meandering, restrained and lacking in thrills (although these for me are just part of its peppy charm). Heroes of the Frontier acts on the reader like a breath of Alaskan air, cleansing the spirit and lifting the heart.
It’s not as moving as Hologram and hardly as bravura a performance as the author’s stunning debut, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but Mr. Eggers has so mastered the art of old-fashioned, straight-ahead storytelling here that the reader quickly becomes immersed in Josie’s funny-sad tale ... Mr. Eggers doesn’t inhabit Josie’s mind with the same depth of intimacy he brought to the hero of Hologram, and he depicts her adventures in Alaska in a breezy, almost improvisatory fashion ... That bone-deep knowledge of a child’s relationship with a parent informs Mr. Eggers’s portraits of Paul and Ana, and their love for and dependence upon Josie — by far the strongest and most deeply affecting parts of this absorbing if haphazard novel.
[Heroes of the Frontier] is pretty absorbing, but has some strange genre issues. Eggers’s chief tools for inserting symbolic meaning into Josie’s chaos are children and pathetic fallacy. With this formal one-two punch, Eggers has somehow managed to mash the Victorian novel into the contemporary American family epic. Imagine Maggie Tulliver as the protagonist of The Corrections ... Sentimentality feels okay when a book is about motherhood, and Heroes reads like a writer finding his subject at last ... The ending is corny, and it ties the book up with a bow it doesn’t deserve. But if you can forgive slightly stereotyped woman protagonists, Eggers’s novel repackages frontiersmanship into a diverting new form.
It’s a rich combination — personhood unconstrained by the acquired prejudices of culture — and the author taps it here with impressive results. He likewise nails single parenthood in all its crowded loneliness and moral angst ... Heroes of the Frontier offers complex, believable characters, but their story lacks the magnetic super-realism of some earlier works.
Eggers is an engaging storyteller, with a sure sense of character (Paul and Ana are especially lively creations, entirely credible as children and touchingly confident in their mother) and a keen eye for the bizarre ... He displays a lack of confidence about holding his readers’ attention, and employs a range of cheap devices. He often proceeds by presenting information misleadingly ... You soon start to wonder if Eggers knows where he’s going with all this: he often seems as lost as Josie is, and like her, he’s doing whatever it takes just to stay on the move.
When Eggers draws the present into his fiction, it’s there not just as window dressing or setting; it tells us something about ourselves ... Eggers takes a little too long before giving us the tools to understand that he’s not looking down on her, that the criticisms come from Josie. Funny, sharp and exasperated with everyone -- especially herself -- she can be a relentless narrative companion. When relief comes, it’s not really nature that’s the balm – although it helps – but a combination of solitude, other grown-ups and the act of creation.
...funny, moving new novel ... Josie, a wonderful Eggers creation, is really the main reason to read the novel. She’s a person full of regrets and neurotic tics ... As the group heads deeper into nature, Eggers’ writing becomes rapturous ... But because one adventure doesn’t really build on another, the narrative drive seems positioned in low gear. Also, although Josie is complex and easy to love, her kids don’t feel as fully formed as they should be ... a shaggy dog story that starts to give you its paw and then seems to think the better of it.
Throughout the book, [Josie's] outrage is exquisitely articulated and very funny ... Having set Josie and her children in crazed motion through a world of more or less random encounters, Eggers forgoes obvious plot twists and simply gives himself the task of knowing this woman as completely as wit and empathy will permit ... In spite of its picaresque structure, the novel has a strong sense of urgency.
...in Eggers’ hands, events like meeting a gun-fanatic family at an abandoned archery range, figuring out how to empty the sewage tank of an RV at a gas station, and encountering a band of prisoners in the midst of an Alaskan wildfire are molded into something more ... his portrayal of Alaska is an inviting entry point to the narrative. Heroes Of The Frontier is frequently funny, as Eggers finds humor in the absurd ... while Heroes Of The Frontier packs a dynamic punch at its conclusion, Eggers is not about to leave his readers with easy answers to the complex problems he presents.
While Heroes of the Frontier fortunately isn’t quite as didactic as The Circle, it shares many of the same weaknesses: most critically, characters that seem animated more by Mr. Eggers’ need to push his theses rather than by any real life of their own, and a tendency to over-explain ... She never fully becomes more than a vehicle for social criticism, and that flatness makes much of Josie’s journey ring false — such as a scene, late in the novel, when she attempts to actually create a musical. Heroes of the Frontier’s best moments come when Mr. Eggers dials back Josie’s internal monologues enough to let us absorb ourselves in a scene.
Heroes of the Frontier also functions as a sly, sophisticated, and infectiously entertaining commentary on America's loss of moral, political, and social courage—themes native to Eggers's work that he explores with ever more generosity, giddy mischief, and resolve. For sheer wit and wile, Eggers's novelistic sensibility achieves Twainian heights here in his rendering of America's aptitude for courting faith while creating folly, and yet somehow still sticking the landing.
Think of this as a gloomier version of Little Miss Sunshine, minus the comic relief of Steve Carell and Alan Arkin. And while Heroes of the Frontier falls into the dreaded aesthetic of dramedy, it is weirdly affecting. I can’t say I really liked these characters a great deal, but their oddities and consistently poor decisions stirred enough curiosity in me to keep the pages turning.
The RV trip, at times, feels endless and readers may begin to squirm and wonder when we'll get to where Eggers is taking us. It's one long, dark trip as well through the endless highways of Josie's bad thoughts and memories ... When Eggers unleashes his talent for capturing the innocence and purity of happy children, the story is in overdrive ... Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a memoir about becoming his 8-year-old brother's guardian, proved he could write with passion and clarity about a real boy. Paul and Ana, this novel's heroes, feel just as real. Their story, if we allow Eggers a bounty of artistic license, is just as ingeniously told.
One of the best things about Heroes is Josie herself...She wins our respect through her grit, her admirable way of interacting with her two energetic and intelligent children, her confidence and her resolve ... The novel’s picaresque aspects, the situations and people whom Josie and the children encounter on the road, unfold easily and are mostly done very well, with only occasional detours into what come off as ham-handed authorial intrusions.
I really enjoyed everything about the new book that relates to people. Josie, the protagonist, is complicated, believable, moving, frequently hilarious — so is the way she interacts with others. The towns, and their quirky, touristy craziness, ring true. This is not the case for the wilderness ... The idea of owing more to luck than courage contradicts one of the basic themes of Heroes of the Frontier — that through acting bravely and persevering, you and those around you (in Josie’s case, Paul and Ana) can become the 'heroes' of the title ... Heroes of the Frontier is an enjoyable story.
True to form, [Eggers] is again as earnest, lyrical, passionate — and, yes, sometimes annoyingly preachy — as any contemporary American novelist ... Eggers is not giving us yet another treacle-filled account of how we should live for our kids, be defined by our kids, or describe our life's purpose through our kids. Eggers dares to offer still more: two extraordinarily textured and credible portraits of young children — rare, in American literature — coupled with a trenchant, spot-on account of how hard parenting can be.
...thorough, detail-driven and well-paced ... Eggers, the omniscient narrator, takes the reader both inside Josie’s head and outside into this unfamiliar landscape. He aptly depicts Josie’s growing bond with her kids and her search for redemption. Eggers stuffs well-drawn characters, believable scenes and topical social commentary into the novel like an overpacked suitcase. Yet it all seems to work in under 400 pages.
Eggers’ prose is charming and direct, telling the story with a quick pace and little artifice. It’s also pretty funny ... It’s debatable whether they’re heroes, as the title suggests, but their increasing ability to persevere in the face of moral and physical obstacles makes them admirable and makes this gripping, occasionally nerve-wracking novel so hard to put down.