Zoe Whittall’s taut novel The Spectacular has all the trappings to become the season’s dishiest read. It’s also a gem of literary fiction ... The plot of The Spectacular isn’t clearly defined; all three women’s stories connect at certain points, and the narrative jumps forward and backward in time. But this is not a typical sprawling family drama, and in Whittall’s smart and capable hands, these unconventional women are given the space to experience their full, complicated lives. Whittall takes the long view with this multigenerational arc to explore the responsibilities of motherhood, the boundaries of biology and the price for women’s freedom to live fully actualized lives.
Shifting between the characters, and moving easily through multiple time frames...Whittall vividly captures the breadth of a family’s experiences, but that breadth is a means to an end: she is able to not only explore generational trauma, but also dissect the impact of nurture (and the lack thereof) over time ... The Spectacular is a deeply thoughtful, deeply felt novel, ceaselessly questioning and genuinely empathetic to its characters’ actions. What should not be overlooked, however, is how fun it is, with moments...of powerful joy and...wicked, almost black humour ... Whittall...brings all of her talents to bear on her new novel, and the result is a singularly impressive piece of fiction.
It’s..worth praising Whittall’s fearlessness in addressing the very real (but infrequently talked about) idea that not every person with a uterus is cut out to be a mother—and there’s no shame in admitting, or acting upon, that fact ... An occasionally melancholy, often darkly comedic story from a sharply talented writer, The Spectacular is a vibrant homage to living life on your own terms.