A novel-within-a-novel about a young author writing about the forbidden love affair between E.M. Forster and Mohammed el Adl--in which Mohammed's story collides with his own, blending fact and fiction.
... eloquent, totally absorbing ... Donaldson’s easy style carries one along through Kip’s crises and Mohammed’s testing of Forster’s love for him. The parallels between the two stories are clear, but the novel is too rich to settle for easy equations. There are echoes of seminal works of Black and gay literature ... David Santos Donaldson has powerfully captured the isolating pain of a man who has spent his life being seen as 'the other.' His central character realizes that, nonetheless, one can only find oneself and one’s creative voice, through one’s messy relations with other people. Greenland is another fine contribution to a growing canon of Black queer fiction.
... not since Iris Murdoch’s The Philosopher’s Pupil have I read a novel crammed full of so many ideas and tropes that they threaten to spill out of its margins ... Ostensibly about a young queer man in Manhattan, Greenland is also a novel of identity and place, but it is less about claiming one’s own territory than deciding who gets to come inside ... If Donaldson did nothing else in this novel but tell Kip’s story, his sensitive investigation into isolation would make it notable...Yet Donaldson is after something larger than literary New York’s blind spots ... These toggles aren’t merely fancy jump cuts; the stories and eras blur together like overlaid transparencies ... Amid all this is a lot of sex — all of it meaningful in Donaldson’s hands ... runs over with philosophy, psychology, politics, literature, family sagas, food, beauty, style, history, geography. This is a book with respect for neither the margins of the page nor those that confine us in the real world. Some may find its bountiful overflows confusing or unnecessary; I found them mostly captivating. Whatever your personal tolerance for the disorder along the way, Donaldson sustains a plot that ends with ecstasy, action and reconciliation, satisfyingly concluding a novel of ideas that is also about one queer Black man finding his true north.
Donaldson’s painting of this different time and place is so limited, I am hard-pressed to call this a historical novel in the usual sense of the term. Nonetheless, this novel is an evocative and important story for today ... Maya Angelou, police violence torn from today’s headlines, climate change—nothing is left unexamined as a Black queer man tries to escape the history of colonialism, racial and gendered, and ends up, in fact, alone in glacial Greenland.