... strange and powerful ... Smith’s eye doesn’t accost; it considers. That Smith is also a poet comes as no surprise. Her prose — densely though never overly descriptive, rich and bursting, verdantly Appalachian — puts you vividly in this world, where the banal is rendered strangely and tenderly. This is a book interested in people not just unglamorous, but overlooked. It’s a book brimming with longing, with heartbreak. It’s a coming-of-age by coming into somebody else ... the novel is about more than just adolescent angst, a young girl’s longing to be somewhere else, someone else. Its universality lies in its generosity — its empathy for every character within it, regardless of his or her decisions, no matter how flawed. There is compassion for questionable actions rooted in longing. Reduced to those longings, are any of us so dissimilar?
Smith never moralizes in Marilou is Everywhere; she understands the flaws that make everyone — especially those who have been beaten down the world — human. And that's indicative of Smith's compassion and generosity as a writer. She never condescends to the characters in the novel, never asks her readers to pity them. While many books set in rural America descend into poverty porn, Smith keeps the humanity of the characters in sharp focus, showing a real love ... Smith does a beautiful job articulating this desire that Cindy has, and explaining why she finds herself unable to stop searching for it, even as her life — and Bernadette's — slowly fall apart ... a novel of stunning emotional intelligence, and Cindy an unforgettable character, but it's Smith's writing that's the real star of the book. Her language is hypnotic and enchanting, with lines that read like poetry ... Nearly every page of the novel features a breathtaking turn of phrase; the book is almost otherworldly in its beauty and power.
It’s a compelling premise for a suspenseful novel, and short chapters keep the story moving, as Cindy makes a choice that harms others. But Smith isn’t solely interested in plot; she’s a poet as well as a fiction writer, and her interest in language shows ... Marilou Is Everywhere’s language mixes the inventive with the plain, which adds another dimension to the first-person narration, making Cindy’s lonely world more vivid. Smith handles the darkness in the novel (rural poverty, sexual abuse, alcoholism, drug use, neglect) with a light touch, offering plenty of humor in Cindy’s narration. The story comes to a lovely conclusion, allowing Cindy and the novel’s other characters some redemption ... Smith is a writer to watch.