Her work glows with cruelty and humor; her sentences showcase the dread at the foundation of our lives. Not much happens in a Williams novel, but that doesn’t matter when you feel the trembling that her characters go through on every page ... Harrow, like purgatory, is a place that leaves you wanting more. Harrow reads like a young person’s novel because it is concerned with the question of what, if anything, comes next. It was nature that used to allow Williams’s characters to see beyond the barren human landscape they inhabited. Now nature is gone, replaced with Twitter posts filled with impotent rage ... Harrow leaves us with confusion, and a conviction that at least we should recognize our boredom in this purgatory. But how do we get out of this in-between space where everything needs to change but nothing will? It is unfair to demand that Harrow answer that question, but it does set it up.
Williams’ tone is caustic and discomfiting; it brings to mind the moment in which we are living, when matters of science and public health are regularly ridiculed or redirected in favor of political or economic platitudes...At the same time, her vision is too capacious for Harrow to be read so narrowly ... The implication is that chaos is both our invention and our destiny, which means there can be no solace or forgiveness for our collusion with it. This is the source of Williams’ fierce and unrelenting anger, and it invests Harrow with a potent moral weight ... a piece of writing in the vein of Samuel Beckett or Franz Kafka, its humor weaponized by rage ... 'Before the eyes can see, they must be incapable of tears,' Williams tells us — excavating, as she does throughout this magnificent and moving novel, the middle distance between silence and experience.
Harrow reminds me very much of Denis Johnson’s Fiskadoro and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but, with apologies to the boys, it’s better than both of their novels put together. Harrow belongs at the front of the pack of recent climate fiction, even as it refuses the basic premise (human survival is important) and the sentimental rays of hope (another world is possible!) that are the hallmarks of the genre. This novel doesn’t care who you vote for or if you recycle ... a crabby, craggy, comfortless, arid, erudite, obtuse, perfect novel, a singular entry in a singular body of work by an artist of uncompromised originality and vision. For all of its fragmentation and deliberate strategies of estrangement, Harrow feels coherent and complete, like a single long-form thought or a religious epiphany. It’s also funny as hell ... To read this novel is to know and to be known (Galatians 4:9) by a profound and comfortless alterity, to encounter the cosmic otherness at the very core of the self.