The pace of Harding’s storytelling is stately, his descriptions, even of small events, gorgeous ... These are sentences to be savored, and they constitute the novel’s chief narrative pull. Dramatic action, long bruited about, comes late, though forcefully ... This Other Eden is beautiful and agonizing—rather like the real place that inspired it.
All are rendered humble, human, particular and luminous in Harding’s long, poetic sentences ... started to tense, weary of wading deeper into this story that I knew must end in violence and displacement for its poor, Black cast ... Yet the passages that put me on guard are the same ones that disarmed me. Harding’s prose is mesmerizing ... Whatever apprehensions I had were outweighed by Harding’s powerful music ... Despite Harding’s lush prose, there is a curiosity to these characters, to this world: Until their foreshadowed displacement, it seems the residents of Apple Island move about with little to no awareness of the racial politics of their day ... This novel could be more focused on the turbulence of their eugenics-fueled expulsion, but instead we’re offered moments of family, connection and resilience, which only make the instances of violence and extrication more unsettling and explosive. With the fall of this Eden looming in the wings of the novel, what a careful and caring choice to spend so much time in the grandeur of the lives of the banished ... Not without complication, not without terror, This Other Eden is ultimately a testament of love: love of kin, love of nature, love of art, love of self, love of home. Harding has written a novel out of poetry and sunlight, violent history and tender remembering. The humans he has created are, thankfully, not flattened into props and gimmicks, which sometimes happens when writers work across time and difference; instead they pulse with aliveness, dreamlike but tangible, so real it could make you weep.
Stunning ... You could imagine lots of ways a historical novel about this horror might be written, but none of them would give you a sense of the strange spell of This Other Eden—its dynamism, bravado and melancholy. Harding's style has been called 'Faulknerian' and maybe that's apt, given his penchant for sometimes paragraph-long sentences that collapse past and present ... [An] intense wonder of a historical novel.