Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. He knows what he's done, and now awaits execution, the same chilling fate he forced on those girls, years ago. But Ansel doesn't want to die - he wants to be celebrated, understood.
... poetic and mesmerizing ... It’s an impossible weight for a mother to imagine, but Kukafka handles it with grace and empathy and terrible, enduring beauty ... a victim-forward narrative that is a relief to read after years of serial killer hagiography. It’s also no less thrilling ... a career-defining novel – powerful, important, intensely human, and filled with a unique examination of tragedy, one where the reader is left with a curious emotion: hope.
Kukafka moves nimbly among those multiple strands ... Kukafka aims to undo some of these conventions, including the preoccupation with dead women, in order to explore more ambiguous and ambitious terrain. This novel is defiantly populated with living women; it ruminates on trauma, the criminal justice system and guilt. The narrative tension that animates Girl in Snow is again present, but this time it has a different source. There is no question of who did what, or even why. Instead, it is the inevitability of Ansel’s execution and the moral abyss of capital punishment that floods the novel with dread ... In this way, the novel pushes the reader to think about both the uses and the limitations of empathy in fiction. The reader never fully identifies with Ansel, but that seems precisely the point: We don’t need to identify with him in order to understand that his execution is a horror and an outrage ... is in part, and often powerfully, a novel about these women. But it is also true that Ansel remains at the heart of the novel, functioning as the story’s conceptual negative space ... And as much as the novel may wish to dismantle the mythos of the serial killer, in many ways, the Ansel who emerges — particularly in the sections centered on the various women — reinforces it ... nuanced, ambitious and compelling. Perversely, some of the novel’s propulsive power comes from the very conventions it fails to abandon. The seduction of the serial killer narrative is difficult to shake, for reader and author alike. We keep watching, and we keep turning the pages. In our fascination, we’re all implicated.
... unshakable, deeply compassionate ... Kukafka wrings tremendous suspense out of a story that isn’t a whodunit or even strictly a why-dunit, suspense born out of a desire to see these women transcend the identities consigned to them ... A contemporary masterpiece that sits alongside The Executioner’s Song and Victim: The Other Side of Murder in the library of crime literature.