Give this sinewy prose poem a chance and you’ll fall under the spell of a forlorn voice trapped in the hellscape of modern America ... [It's] the purr of a classic perspective in American literature that stretches back to Huckleberry Finn, an outcast naif whose bewildered commentary plumbs our strange behavior, our extravagant passions, our senseless cruelty ... Hoke coughs up these little hairballs of comic misunderstanding throughout Open Throat, but it’s the pathos that sustains his novel ... Wisely, Hoke keeps this story short, but it’s more than just a series of doleful observations. There is an actual arc to this plot, though it’s so fragile I won’t say more than that it’s sparked by a horrendous crime against a group of people ... Untamed.
[A] slim jewel of a novel ... Propulsive ... This act of ravishing and outlandish imagination should be the norm, not the exception. At its best, fiction can make the familiar strange in order to bring readers and our world into scintillating focus. Open Throat is what fiction should be.
The big cat’s delivery is terse and prose-poem-like. That makes for a propulsive, one-sitting read, if also a somber on ... It’s easy to appreciate the playful-yet-serious dynamic of Hoke’s novel on its face, and he’s entering a rich talking-animal tradition ... But even as a one-sitting read, Open Throat can feel a little over-long. A cat, even a wily one, only has so much to say about the state of humanity. So the narrative sometimes drifts into simplistic, wry observations ... The lowercase, clipped narrative tone is meant to project urgency and a distinct style. At times, though, Hoke’s P-22 manqué feels less like a cat and more like a too-earnest Instapoet ... Nevertheless, an overall sense of peril — for the cat, and for us — comes blazing through.