A minimalist masterpiece ... Simpson excavates the multiple meanings of the word 'commitment,' seemingly daring us to consider whether the state-run institutions of the past were in some ways more humane than the community-based treatment that was meant to succeed them ... She captures time and place with uncanny precision and the compression of language characteristic of a poet ... Commitment makes the case in a quiet but insistent voice that our lives do matter, even if other people think they are broken.
A cynical reader might find Julie’s selflessness too convenient; I found it inspiring and wanted to know more about her. Instead I learned a lot about Thomas Story Kirkbride, the Quaker psychiatrist who believed that airy, well-lit hospitals could have a curative effect on patients ... Simpson seems to have unlimited time and pages as she follows Walter, Lina and Donnie into adulthood ... Simpson has clearly done her research on the development of the Pacific Palisades and on the gallery scene in Manhattan in the 1980s, among many other topics, and the fruits of her labor add texture to an already hefty story ... Her language is subtle to the point of coyness, with an arm’s-length quality that’s equal parts impressive and maddening.