... a spartan work, set in the 1970s and grounded in the turbulence of competition in the late-20th-century art world ... don’t assume that the new novel’s slim size indicates a quieter book ... This is a brilliant and unsparing examination of the burdens we place on friendship and marriage, the way that creative genius is misperceived as madness, the clumsy way mental health is addressed, the scourge of racism, and the alchemy of folklore and legacy bound in the secrets we hide ... A Black woman working at the height of her powers, Catherine carries the projected burdens of being an activist as much as an artist. She’s also damned for those very expectations. Not Black enough for some, too Black for others, her work is scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. Her strain, though hyperbolic, possesses a certain gravity ... Curiously, this strikingly relevant novel is actually several decades old...What matters now is that, after a long silence, readers are enjoying a steady stream of her powerful writing.
... remarkable ... The nuances and foibles of their multilayered friendship are detailed through Amanda’s astute, conversational observations, along with reflections on their collective experiences as Black artists in creative spaces. Amanda, a character Jones introduced in The Healing (1998), is secretive with her friends, but her compelling backstory, told in alternating flashback chapters, is rife with explorations of marriage, motherhood, and identity. Jones’ prose is captivating, at moments coolly observational and at others profoundly intimate; the delicate balance is the mark of a truly great storyteller. An intriguing, tightly crafted, and insightful meditation on creativity and complicated friendships.
Jones continues her marvelous run after last year’s Pulitzer finalist Palmares with the gloriously demented story of an artist who keeps trying to kill her husband ... Jones, implicitly defiant, draws deeply from classic and global literature—a well-placed reference to Cervantes’s windmills leaves the reader’s head spinning. And like one of Amanda’s inventive novels, this one ends on a surprising and playful turn. It ought to be required reading.
As a meditation on female creativity, it forms a fascinating bookend to Jones’s debut, the bruising Corregidora ... Much of the novel is told in seemingly random spurts of dialogue, where the reader must pick up stray clues and make subtle connections; even what look like in-jokes ... For all her acclaim, Jones’s most poignant suggestion is that to be a successful female artist in whatever medium is to be seen as a monster.
... written conversationally and edged with absurdity and venomous sarcasm. The artist as self-centered bastard is a figure Ms. Jones ridicules but also reluctantly defends, and you can never quite tell whether the more macabre elements of The Birdcatcher are meant to be funny or serious.
... drolly insinuating ... predictably unpredictable ... It’s all outrageous enough at the outset to make readers anticipate an absurdist-modernist slapstick farce. Yet the icy, deadpan tone of Amanda’s leisurely narrative voice, though seasoned with sneaky wordplay and impish irony, helps make this a quirkier, more reflective kind of comedy. The repartee, as with the rest of the story, can drift and meld into side tangents and back, complete with literary references, art criticism, and coy innuendo. Jones’ impulse to keep her readers alternately off balance and in the weeds threatens to upend the novel altogether, especially at the end, as shifts in tone and locale make you question almost everything that came before. Whether this was intended or not, its effect seems perfunctory, even abrupt. It may not be the most powerful or best realized of Jones’ novels, but it may be the closest she’s come to making us laugh as much as wince. Her vaunted blend of ambiguity and disquiet comes across here as a sly, even smirky dance. And her inquiries into how Black women live now are present throughout. Not just 'present,' in fact, but 'prescient,' as Amanda herself likely couldn’t keep herself from saying ... Jones’ mercurial, often inscrutable body of work delivers yet another change-up to readers’ expectations.