Shields has created a dawn-of-the-nuclear-age Cassandra in this galvanizing variation on the ancient Greek tale of a seer doomed always to be right, yet never to be believed. Shields summons the spirit of the besieged land in a heron, coyote, and rattlesnake who reveal, in surreal and terrifying visions, the horrors of the radiation contaminating the region and the hell to come in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mildred proves to be a woman of unnerving strength as she also contends with Hanford’s brutal racism, as witness, and endures sexual violence. Shields verges on overkill but offers satirically comedic scenes and satisfyingly venomous takedowns of the patriarchy, welcome flashes of light in this otherwise harrowing dive into the darkest depths of hubris and apocalyptic destruction. A uniquely audacious approach to the nuclear nightmare.
... biting ... Readers will need a high tolerance for the dream scenes — there are quite a few — but they provide necessary, sickening contrast to the spit-and-polish patriotism via talking coyotes, deformed fetuses and other grotesqueries ... What’s a mid-1940s girl in pin curls to do? Shields is too cunning for heroic fantasies. From the get-go, Mildred craves men’s power ... Familiarity with the original Cassandra is not required to appreciate this novel, although those who do know the ancient myth will admire Shields’s skillful tweaks ... But nothing is more troubling or more brilliant than Mildred’s horrifying reaction to a trauma that implicates all of us so forcefully that it’s easy to believe Shields is the one blessed — or cursed — with visions of impending ruin.
The premise of Sharma Shields' second novel, The Cassandra, is excellent ... Unfortunately, Shields strays far too frequently into neatness and cuteness, and so The Cassandra leaves no questions in its wake ... as a novel, The Cassandra leaves much to be desired. Because Mildred never truly reckons with the philosophical and emotional problems that her premonitions create, the reader never has to. Because she never truly fights to be heard, the reader never has to listen. By the end of The Cassandra, Mildred is literally and figuratively mute, and we have no reason to be sorry.