... a dazzling enigma packed with mysteries in miniature ... Is the Subdivision a place, an emotion or an event lodged in the back of the mind? Is it limbo, or a wall persuaded to shield us from the truth? Lennon is a masterly aggregator of dread. His refusal to neatly answer these questions allows for a bold, unsettling narrative to take shape. The main character’s memories have been fragmented, jumbled and reassembled in a district specifically zoned for her story. Every novel is a subdivision in this way: a plot of land, a land for the plot.
... masterfully told ... what a pleasure it is! Page after page features passages that beg to be read again, with wonderfully inventive visuals along the way ... Indeed, it isn’t long before readers are led to believe the entire world Lennon has built is a before-and-after place, which deepens the story’s nightmarish vibe while propelling the narrative forward ... [Lennon] is one of those rare contemporary writers who’s forged a unique way of storytelling that fuses imagination and reality to create narratives that are presently compelling and resonant long after the last words are read ... While It’s easy to envision his work being analyzed by the MFA crowd, the plots and language are equally appealing to everyday readers who want accessible storytelling that’s intriguing as opposed to confusing (or so obtuse that it takes a room full of those MFAs to figure out what the stories mean) ... Yes, he’s brilliant, but he knows the writer’s most important priority is to entertain. Which is exactly what he does in Subdivision, where cryptic chills and surprises lie around every corner.
... a novel with a key. But rather than shocking us with a twist ending, Lennon gradually clues us (and the narrator herself) into what’s really going on beneath the surface. This process is heavy-handed at times ... The narrator’s metaphorical sublimations of traumatic events and relationships tend toward the obvious, and one of the recurring images, of a jigsaw puzzle filling itself in on a table in the guesthouse, reads like a cliché. But Subdivision is never less than riveting, thanks to Lennon’s lean and evocative prose, our thrilling inability to predict what will happen next, and the certainty that it will be something surprising and disturbing.
The experience of reading J. Robert Lennon’s latest title is as akin to playing certain mystery video games as it is to reading a typical book ... The book’s mysteries emerge slowly, perhaps even preciously ... Lennon isn’t failing to realize a detailed world; he’s realizing a non-detailed world. The narration is precise but toneless, displaying the same detachment whether describing neighborhood aesthetics ... The advantage for the writer is the ability to tweak reality and introduce elements as they see fit, no verisimilitude check needed. The pleasure for the reader, when the former is done well, lies in the tension between the world as it is and the subdivision in which the reader or viewer is contained — in how the real world, which the artificial one conceals, sneaks through the membrane. After a quaint start, Lennon proves himself masterful at this ... While it’s not always clear which oddities have outside meaning and which are simply dreamlike logic, the mystery unfolds at a steady drip, and gives the reader some intriguing detours on the ride to the big reveal ... The more the novel goes on, the more its world resembles those in Murakami novels (though we’re spared any sexualized descriptions of women’s earlobes), with their interplay between the strange and the meaningful, the conscious and the subconscious. Lennon makes familiar things just strange enough to be unsettling ... Since we don’t have the picture on the box, seeing the picture revealed as Lennon fits more and more pieces into place makes for an effective mystery format ... But the most interesting thing about the form Lennon has chosen is the way it turns a book about a faceless, nameless character with no memories and few opinions into a portrait. The reader isn’t the only one discovering who this woman is. The narrator is on a journey to see herself, and the life The Subdivision conceals, properly for the first time. The narrator arrives as an empty outline. The journey to fill in that outline is a wild one, but one given meaning by the person we come to see inside it.
... deeply philosophical and surreal puzzle-like tale ... Lennon cleverly employs symbolism and literary echoes to create a dark fairy tale rich in imagination and sly intelligence that will appeal to the intellectually curious reader. A thought-provoking work that somehow successfully brings to mind Alice in Wonderland and Kafka as reimagined by manga animator Hayao Miyazaki.
... askew, uncanny—and consistently compelling ... The tone is surreal and the result sometimes, à la Kafka, darkly funny. The novel features elements of the picaresque (she is Alice, or perhaps Gulliver), but it also has the everyday-suburban-made-strange-and-luminous quality of Steven Millhauser and the gleefully absurd, improvised feel of César Aira. Eventually the narrator's other, prior world starts to bleed through, and the reader gains tools that help to illuminate the mystery, if not quite (and bless Lennon for this) solve it ... Sharp, inventive—and disorienting in all the good ways.
... deliriously inventive ... Lennon strikes a delicate balance, and the surreal story is only occasionally weighed down with overwriting ... This is an impressive marriage of a vibrant, tortuous fever dream and an unsentimental meditation on life and death.