... False Calm is far more closely related to Dorothea Lange's photographs from the Dust Bowl [than to Bruce Chatwin or Antoine de Saint-Exúpery's work]. It's not exploration; it's portraiture ... False Calm's lightning-rod nature is both the book's great strength and great weakness. It makes the narrative feel mobile, episodic, loose. Each town only gets one chapter, and Cristoff never returns to a place or a theme... there's sometimes not enough story to satisfy ... But False Calm remains beautiful. It's worth reading as a collection of impressions, an act of witness, and a tribute to the lives Cristoff encounters. Where it falters as a book, it still succeeds as a record.
[Cristoff's] chronicling is never a dry reporting of facts; rather, she gives Patagonia a face—even multiple faces—as she draws out riveting stories from people whom many might otherwise ignore ... Sketched in lovely prose, False Calm opens up vistas to the true heart of Patagonia. The turbulence within the inhabitants whom Cristoff encounters belies the region’s halcyon facade.
'Isolation is present in everything I have found written about Patagonia,' Argentinian author Cristoff writes at the beginning of this marvelous chronicle of her sojourn in the remote, vast region ... These sharply observed essays prove that while the landscape of Patagonia may be desolate, it also teems with human fears, aspirations, and love.