In this collection of short stories, Cohen explores the ways in which traditional stories have failed us, both demanding and providing for its cast of Sarahs new origin stories, new ways to love the planet and those inhabiting it, and new possibilities for life itself.
... wonderfully bizarre ... Throughout, Cohen cleverly reimagines the world through a queer lens and uses pop culture and fairy tale references to illustrate the various lives, stories, and worlds the Sarahs can inhabit. A thought-provoking work, Cohen’s collection surprises and excites.
... brilliant, delightful ... the first time I’ve seen the Jewish American Princess in a work of fiction since Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus, and it’s wonderful to have an update on her condition ... The best stories in this collection are thrillingly ambivalent, and illuminate paradoxes of Sarah-ness without solving them. The title story is one of these, rendering the rituals of JAPpy college-girl life with a hilarity that’s at once wicked and tender. The Sarahs’ nights out are always boring and violent, but Cohen also grants them moments of grace ... Cohen is wonderful at this: reveling in femme spaces while examining these spaces’ precariousness, stagnancy, and sadness in a way that’s dexterous, rich, funny, and empathetic without ever going easy on anyone ... The high-femme world of sex work is a box Sarah was forced into, but it also offers her freedom from the contradictory injunctions of middle-class girlhood, and it gives the story a gorgeous, sticky aesthetic, a sparkly, jewel-tone palette that extends, forgivingly, over everyone ... I love the lushness and playfulness of these stories. But they’re also thinner than the earlier pieces; they seem to have the answers, in a way the early stories don’t. They’re less wondrously uncomfortable; their politics are more internet-friendly. I agree with them; I’m not shattered by them ... It’s as if the collection takes the same journey that Sarah does: growing up; coming out; finding herself; shedding blurriness and heaviness...I’m happy for her, but I miss the earlier stories’ sad, runaway JAPs, who had no way out of themselves. They kept things ugly and high-stakes and true. I wonder if there’s a slight cop-out in the movement of the collection, that prevents it from having to ride the wave of certain difficult but crucial aspects of Sarah’s Sarah-ness: that prevents this from being, in part, a book about whiteness, about a particular flavor of whiteness. I don’t know if Cohen would like being compared to Philip Roth, and I feel very square forcing a Jewish patriarchal lineage on her, but the comparison is revealing regarding Sarah’s origins, and perhaps her destiny ... Cohen knows how to hold that complexity, and I longed for it in the later stories...But maybe I’m just being greedy. I loved Sarahland. Like the best fiction, it both articulated and deepened what were for me previously unspeakable, but urgent mysteries, including why feminine and/or feminist utopias are always half-beautiful, half-grotesque; how the world ends; and where American class aspiration and the quest for freedom meet, which is to say, what a Jewish girl from the suburbs who wants out is chasing, what she’s fleeing, and how far she can really get.
... strangely wonderful ... regardless of how far it dives into gender theory or strays from reality, Sarahland is still just a ton of fun to read—at turns thought-provoking, funny, strange and exhilarating ... With Sarahland, Cohen has asserted herself as a worthy contemporary of Ottessa Moshfegh, Elif Batuman and Carmen Maria Machado.