At once a work of historical fiction, a speculative romance in the traditional sense, and a broader feminist commentary on genre fiction, Gloss’s novel is a subtle and thorough piece of art ... I’m impossibly impressed by the spot-on perfection of the prose in this book. Charlotte’s voice is so well-observed, so crafted, that it reads as natural as breathing. The Pacific Northwest comes to life on each and every page, almost to the smell ... Gloss does a masterful job balancing the progressive politics of 1905 against our contemporary understanding of the shortcomings therein ... It’s a delicate balance to strike, representation and criticism in the same turn of phrase. It requires the audience to read carefully and slowly, to consider the layers of the frame and the layers of Gloss’s project at the same time ... Wild Life is a fantastic book, rich and intensely self-aware. It’s referential without being pedantic, philosophical but narratively engaging ... As a historical it’s utterly divine from tip to tail; as a bit of metafiction it’s crunchy and thorough; as a feminist reimagining of those old 'wild man' novels from within the perspective of the period when it’s set it offers a complex view of progressive politics falling short and shooting long at the same time ... very much worth settling in with for a long weekend’s perusal.
The way the story is written, with diary entries intercut with newspaper cuttings, fragments from Charlotte’s stories, and vignettes of the interior lives of other characters, leads you forward over an abyss you don’t know is there. It’s moving, it’s effective, and it would be a very good book even without that ... I wouldn’t have thought it possible to take such a cliched legend, tall tale, and make of it something as dignified and as real as the people Charlotte meets ... Gloss is very good at evoking place and context, and the wilderness here is both large enough to get lost in and never be seen again and also conspicuously dwindling ... This is a book with charming moments, with tense ones, and with a very strong sense of both place and time—not just the Pacific Northwest during the logging boom of the turn of the twentieth century but also that time in Charlotte’s life ... It’s an amazing book ... Rush out and buy it while you can.
In her canny and spellbinding third novel, Gloss...combines a passion for history with a taste for fantasy and a witty assessment of sexual mores ... Not only has Gloss created an irresistible heroine, she considers our conflictful relationship with nature, misogyny, and what it really means to be alive without once compromising the heady pleasure of her suspenseful tale; and her prose is positively ambrosial.
Gloss twines just enough intellectual fiber around the sleek cord of a great adventure story to offer up a truly satisfying read ... While Gloss generates heat and humor from the friction between early 20th-century and early 21st-century attitudes, her prose is most satisfying when she describes Charlotte's housekeeper ironing or Charlotte's patient suitor batting a homemade baseball ... the writing is gorgeous, the characters real and vivid, and the story transforming.