... astute and distressing ... Waclawiak accomplishes a brilliant feat here, creating an atmosphere of almost palpable, effortful dullness that presides over the entire novel. With so much opportunity for raw emotion, the author seems to avoid it at all cost, going for exceptional clarity instead. In the absence of any real emotional attachment to the characters, the reader is forced instead to engage intellectually, to actually face the tough questions about our own inevitable death ... so little effort is put into helping patients accept their eventual death, effectively encouraging them to ignore mortality. Waclawiak’s Life Events provides a powerful argument against that attitude. The novel offers you a hand, gently helping you pull your head out of the sand to accept the inevitable.
... while Waclawiak’s penchant toward deep interiority leads to some sharp and illuminating insights, Evelyn’s indecision undermines a more profound understanding, leaving her just barely beyond where she started ... The novel is dotted with scenes showcasing Evelyn’s rich inner life, both through a close reading of her memories, as well as a running commentary of her recent freedom. These sequences are almost Cuskian in the way Waclawiak manages to examine Evelyn’s intent, along with her feelings on womanhood and divorce, and the unique challenges those come with. It’s these moments when Life Events is at its best. Evelyn is among the richest and more realized characters I’ve seen in fiction recently, which makes it all the more disappointing that there’s so little in the way of action or causality to propel the novel from scene to scene. Transitions between the multitude of chapters often feel haphazard, and the pieces work about as well individually as part of a more cohesive whole ... not to say no progress is made; the Evelyn at the end is a far-cry from her at the beginning, at her most apathetic. It’s clear that for Waclawiak, the journey is more important than some perfectly satisfying end. For the most part, she’s right.
Evelyn’s trip down this odd career path (which feels like it might actually exist or will in the near future) elevates the book above other novels of this sort ... In the hands of a less polished writer, this novel might be one long cliché, but Karolina Waclawiak is no mere writer. She is a master of painting emotions with many different colors.