Splendidly thought-provoking stories ... Brinkley pierces the superficial and obvious — that what meets the eye is all there is to see — by displaying a more nuanced portrait of how we perceive and are perceived ... Stylistically, the beginnings of these stories are akin to being thrust into a moving current — Brinkley doesn’t waste time on unnecessary setup or trivial fluff. His smooth prose rips and slips down the page, getting right to the point ... Brinkley is a writer whose versatility knows no boundaries. He can make you laugh, cry, contemplate life’s deepest questions, remember what it was like to be a child, and feel the warmth, or chill, of your own family history. Tapping into the sticky stuff of humanity, each story is a gift of the highest quality, reminding us that we are all both in the audience and on life’s stage, even if we don’t know it.
Like all good stories, Brinkley's are slices of life or dramas in miniature that, despite their relative brevity, come packed with incident, insight and emotion ... Some of Brinkley's finest stories depict romantic relationships blossoming or withering on the vine ... Well-drawn characters ... Brinkley is shaping up to be one of the most impressive contemporary practitioners of short stories. Here, as before, we watch in admiration as he makes a little go an extremely long way.
An extraordinary gathering of stories that confirms Brinkley’s place among the most moving, compelling and virtuosic practitioners of the short form ... What seems above all to define the particular brilliance of Brinkley’s artistry with the short form... is his ceaseless conjuring of the small groupings that crystallise the predicaments and joys, the folds and the creases, of contemporary life, and Black American life in particular.
Recriminations, resentments and regrets are the order of the day in the 10 distinctly downbeat tales comprising his new collection ... The narratives are absorbingly paced, the dialogue is taut and convincing. There are some cute psychological flourishes ... Some of the tales are too neatly sociological ... Witness is an accomplished but patchier effort – the proverbial difficult second album. Brinkley has come back down to earth.
Concerned with the work of observation, here with regard to black men and women in New York City ... Sensitive and moving ... A sense of stuckness occasionally mires the stories as well, and a claustrophobic sense of despair. But there is no denying the refinement of this writer’s perceptions, or his commitment to empathy.
Manages to be tonally coherent without the stories ever bleeding into one another; each is separate and memorable in its own right ... A standout title story ... The characters in this collection are all witnesses, hesitant but perceptive, observant sometimes to the point of paralysis. By contrast, Brinkley’s prose is confident and dynamic, the details intensely rendered.
Masterful ... Brinkley bears witness to these topics through his characters, while he, with searing beauty and grace, also explores the intricacies of identity, friendship, family, community, growing older, and more—topics at the heart of the many broader, larger issues we face in America today.
Exceptional ... This new collection displays how Brinkley’s already superb craftsmanship and subtle plotting have grown. Though his stories don’t range beyond New York City, they journey deep into the human heart with precise language and a generous spirit.
Lingering in the worlds and heads of his protagonists, Brinkley’s stories elongate these moments into chasms of psyche and memory. They remind us that whatever we see in the window, observation alone is superficial. To witness is a full-body experience, affecting the mind as much as the eye ... As it confronts the specters of lost neighborhoods, traditions, and people, Witness becomes a book of haunting ... Brinkley complicates what we think we know and reveals that what we see is never only one thing. Witness reveals racism in the medical system through a story of siblings; gentrification through an eight-year-old’s eyes; the strain of each day on a young woman four years after her brother is killed by a police officer. In every story, Brinkley pulls off an illusion: to show what we cannot encounter simply by looking.
Of all the relationships of which Brinkley writes in this collection, those between siblings, although never perfect, are expressed with a degree of tenderness that is moving. His siblings need each other more than they need parents. They are, after all, of the same generation and conspirators in life, in the act of survival, as well as in the human burden of bearing witness.
Brinkley's stories shine when they focus on the interstices of behavior that reveal character. Standouts include 'Bartow Station,' a story of a UPS driver for whom a visit to the world's oldest subway tunnel summons memories of childhood tragedy, and the title piece, which highlights the casual racism Black people confront in its tale of a Black woman whose health concerns white doctors repeatedly brush aside. The stories are downbeat, but the prose is elegant, as when the protagonist of 'Arrows' sees an old family photograph covered with his now-blind father's fingerprints: 'it was filigreed, an intricate web spread across our faces.' Brinkley has produced a second collection that justifies his status as one of the most exciting writers in the U.S.
Dazzling ... Brinkley crafts unforgettable portraits, humming with barely restrained tension, of Black men and women exploring what it means to be part of families and communities that are awash in hope and disappointment alike. These intimate vignettes have the power to move readers.
Short stories that in their depth of feeling, perception, and sense of place affirm their author’s bright promise ... After just two collections, Brinkley may already be a grand master of the short story.