One of the most thrilling things about Salvatore Scibona’s second book, The Volunteer, is a refusal not just of this novelistic trend of smallness, but also of our own craven, personal brand-driven cultural moment ... What follows is a magnificent counterpoint of four generations of fathers and sons who roam geography and experience as Scibona braids the narrative strands of his various men in a way that is both disciplined and symphonic ... Scibona is a savage coiner of similes, one who’ll cut sublimity with bathos to snatch a reader’s breath away ... There are also roving, lyrical long shots of Queens streets that, in their grit and dazzle, recall the boyhood Bronx of Don DeLillo’s Underworld ... By paying grave attention to both worlds, both the self and everything beyond it, Scibona has built a masterpiece.
He conveys a world in a detail. Scibona can also take us into the broken heart of a child lost in a foreign airport, the shattering chaos of a night assault during the Vietnam War and the quiet intensity of a working-class New York neighborhood. Throughout, his ear-perfect dialogue percolates. Still, the moments of ecstasy are what most distinguish this book, one that trots the globe yet misses nothing ... The scope is far grander than in Scibona’s 2008 debut, The End (a National Book Award finalist), though the style remains jewel-like ... It’s teeming, brilliantly.
...outstanding, expansive ... Like King Lear that great exploration of 'unaccommodated man,' The Volunteer dramatizes the beauty and terror of self-undoing — and the role love might play in reconstituting a life ... The Volunteer is epic every way ... The prose in The Volunteer is less obviously brilliant than it was in The End; the style is quieter, almost restrained for stretches. But the lyrical heights of this second novel are, if anything, even higher ... The Volunteer will be described as a great historical novel, and it is.