Features some of [Novakovich's] darkest work and also somehow his most hopeful — Novakovich once again ranges widely, from Denis Johnson-esque slices of Americana to utterly original tales from various war-torn villages, showing again and again how he is one of our best writers in the English language.
Novakovich recalls de Maupassant, as he unpacks another swift, dark comedy of war or exile ... Indeed, all the players are unsettled, hustled around sharp corners, recalling the way a fable prizes moral over character. A more useful comparison, however, would be to the Nobel winner Isaac Bashevis Singer ... terrific ...
Surprises abound in Novakovich’s latest collection, which covers the lives of people in Eastern Europe grappling with authoritarianism, internal conflicts, and the pressures within their own communities. These are familiar themes, but Novakovich keeps things unpredictable from the outset: The title story, about a beekeeper living in the midst of a war zone, ends on a frenzied, surreal note that hints at the author's ability to both channel realism and, when the occasion demands, undermine it entirely ... Novakovich expertly probes the minds of the virtuous, the menacing, and the self-deluded in equal measure ... These stories manage the impressive feat of blending gritty realism with more surreal strands, making for a gripping read.
14 remarkable stories ... In these stories, a straight-faced absurdity often simmers just below the surface ... Every story in this collection from Novakovich begins with a straightforward statement of premise ... yet his prose is so balanced and apt, with not a superfluous clause or descriptor, that it always lands artfully. This is a haunting, accomplished collection.