Smith melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape. Taking us from California to the Arizona desert; to a Kentucky farm as the amanuensis of a friend in crisis; to the hospital room of a valued mentor; and by turns to remembered and imagined places, this memoir blends fact and fiction. The unexpected happens; grief and disillusionment set in. But as Smith heads toward a new decade in her own life, she offers this balm to the reader: her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and above all, a rugged hope for a better world.
In her third memoir, National Book Award winner Smith writes with fresh lucidity, arch wit, bittersweet wonder, and stoic sorrow, shifting in tone from lyrical to hallucinatory to hard-boiled as she describes her meditative and investigative meanderings along the Pacific coast and in the desert ... Smith also chronicles with exquisite poignancy her last visits with her soul mate Sam Shepherd as she helps him complete his last book. Smith’s reflections on a wrenching yet grace-filled year as 'the world in its dependable folly kept spinning' is elegiac, vital, and magical.
Smith’s gift for memoir, a natural extension of her work as a lyricist and poet, is once again apparent. Whether describing great works of art or her breakfast, Smith’s straightforward use of language to evoke a mood or place make her flights in and out of dream states seamless. There is nothing pretentious or condescending about her writing, despite the literary and artistic allusions. Her words are for anyone ... Fans of Smith’s extensive body of work and those who enjoy well-crafted personal narratives will find much to love in this brief and vibrant book.
... a beautiful, elegant, and poetic memoir that takes a single year in the artist's life, 2016, and delves deep into the events that shaped it — and the feelings and memories they produced ... Effortlessly weaving together fiction and nonfiction, Smith takes readers on two unique journeys: one that can be traced on a map and one, infinitely richer and more complex, that takes place inside her head and heart. The result is a hybrid narrative that's part travel journal, part reflexive essay on our times, and part meditation on existence at the edge of a new decade of life ... walks a fine line between fiction and nonfiction. [Smith] is aware of the difference between what happens outside her head and what only goes on inside it, but she happily walks that fine line and allows her writing to obliterate the dividing line ... While The Year of the Monkey is wildly entertaining and, at times, touching, the beauty of it comes from Smith's writing. Her musical career sometimes threatens to overshadow her accomplishments in other creative fields, but every page in this book is packed with enough outstanding prose to constantly remind readers that Smith is an accomplished novelist, essayist, and poet who won the National Book Award in 2010 ... a beautifully realized and unique memoir that chronicles a transformative year in the life of one of our most multi-talented creative voices. Smith's approach to nonfiction is unique and brave: It counts as true if it happened, if she imagined it, and if she felt it. This is a book about Smith and the world all around — and that world includes all of us. And that is just one more reason why everyone should read it.