All posts tagged: reviews

Review: Lincoln in the Bardo

 

Book by GEORGE SAUNDERS

Reviewed by SUSAN TACENT

Lincoln in the BardoOn February 20, 1862, Abraham and Mary Lincoln lost their eleven-year-old son Willie to what was probably typhoid fever. Some twenty years ago, George Saunders learned about a rumor that had circulated at the time—that Lincoln several times visited the crypt where Willie was temporarily interred, removed the body from its coffin and, in his great grief, cradled his dead child in his arms.

Julia PikeReview: Lincoln in the Bardo
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Friday Reads: April 2017

Our Friday Reads for April travel the world—from cricket practice in a Mumbai slum to a flower stall in New York City, and from the Balkans after the breakup of Yugoslavia to Algiers after the war of independence. Meet the men and women who bring these places to life through their struggles, aspirations, and survival.

Recommended: Selection Day by Aravind Adiga, Women of Algiers in Their Apartment by Assia Diebar, and Heritage of Smoke by Josip Novakovich

 

Selection Day Cover

Julia PikeFriday Reads: April 2017
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Friday Reads: February 2017

This February, we’re busily reading new novels by three award-winning authors who will be visiting us next month for LitFest at Amherst College. If there’s a common thread for this month’s Friday Reads, it’s memory: commemorating events, friendships, departures, and failures. But it could just as easily be their outstanding quality, as we contribute to the already effusive praise these books have earned. Get reading, and then join us March 2-4 for LitFest!

Recommended:

Swing Time by Zadie Smith, The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder, and Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson.

Sarah WhelanFriday Reads: February 2017
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Review: The Senility of Vladimir Putin

By MICHAEL HONIG
Reviewed by OLGA ZILBERBOURG

The senility of vladimir p

Nikolai Sheremetev, the protagonist of British novelist’s Michael Honig’s second book, is a Moscow nurse. For six years, he’s been looking after a private patient suffering from dementia. The patient’s condition is deteriorating. Prior to his illness, Vladimir P. had been a president of Russia. After his confusion grew and he could no longer hold his own in public, he was quietly replaced by a member of his team and sent into retirement to a private estate near Moscow. As Vladimir’s mental acuity deteriorated, Sheremetev became the single point of contact between him and the outside world. Sheremetev manages his daily schedule, his medications, his rare outings.

Julia PikeReview: The Senility of Vladimir Putin
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Friday Reads: December 2016

By EMILY EVERETT, ALICIA LOPEZ, MEGAN TUCKER ORRINGER and SARAH WHELAN
 

To round out 2016, we’re reading novels new and old for December’s Friday Reads. Explore the social dynamics of male friendships, the black experience through generations and continents, the loneliness of a haunted orphan, and the self-consciousness (or self-destructiveness?) of the writer. After all, the dark days of winter are perfect for tackling big questions, and these towering works of fiction are perfect for raising them.

Recommended:

Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder, and Despair by Vladimir Nabokov.

Isabel MeyersFriday Reads: December 2016
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Review: Home Field

Book by HANNAH GERSEN
Reviewed by KELLY FORDON

Home field

The publisher of Hannah Gersen’s first novel, Home Field, is marketing the book as a cross between two TV shows about teens, Friday Night Lights and My So-Called Life.  My So-Called Life, an angst-ridden and artsy TV show about teenagers in the 90s, is a better comparison than Friday Night Lights,  which is about a high school football-crazy small town. But the teen-pop culture comparisons don’t do justice to this empathic literary novel’s reach into emotional depths that will resonate with seasoned readers, who appreciate how complicated even an ordinary life can get.

Yes, Home Field is set in an isolated town, Willowboro in western Maryland,  that’s reminiscent of FNL’s Dillon, Texas. And yes, Dean, the main character of Gersen’s novel is a football coach, but he quits coaching football in the fourth chapter because his wife, Nicole, has committed suicide, and his family is unraveling. Gersen chips away at her characters’ façades like a miner removing layers of rock. The novel alternates between Dean’s perspective and that of his stepdaughter, Stephanie, but also follows Dean’s two young son’s Robbie, eleven, and Bry, eight, as they attempt to understand what happened to their mother.

Olivia ZhengReview: Home Field
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Review: Fale Aitu | Spirit House

Book by TUSIATA AVAI; ANNE KENNEDY
Reviewed by
TERESE SVOBODA

 

I first encountered Tusiata Avia’s work at the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia just after she published her first book, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt. Her mocking voice, sometimes full of mimicry, sometimes searingly sarcastic, often aims at neocolonialism and globalization. Samoan/Palagi, Avia’s mother is descended from the Europeans who first colonized New Zealand and her father, a stunt man, was among the first wave of Samoan immigrants to New Zealand in the 1950s. For seven years before Avia’s second book arrived—Bloodclot, about Nafanua, the Samoan goddess of war, who leaves the underworld to wander the earth as a half-caste girl—she traveled from Siberia to Sudan and read or performed her work in places like Moscow, Jerusalem and Vienna. Last year Avia was poet-in-residence with Simon Armitage at the International Poetry Studies Institute in Australia. This year Wild Dogs Under My Skin was adapted as a theater event for six women and received rave reviews. The recipient of a Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer’s Residency, the Ursula Bethel Writer in Residence at University of Canterbury, a residency at the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies in Christchurch, she won the 2013 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Truly an international poet with an indigenous Pacifika frame of reference, in Fale Aitu | Spirit House, Avia writes with a visceral, political, spare and passionate authority of someone who has seen the world.

Olivia ZhengReview: Fale Aitu | Spirit House
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Friday Reads: October 2016

By RALPH SNEEDEN, SEAN BERNARD, EMILY CHAMMAHERICA DAWSON

 

In celebration of the release of Issue 12, October’s Friday Reads recommendations come from four of our Issue 12 contributors—poets, essayists, storytellers. As you might then expect, the breadth of their reading stretches wide: stories set in California on the brink of apocalypse or a bizarre state-sponsored research lab; poems rewoven eerily from dark fairy tales, or mixed from myth and history. If you hurry, you might just have time to read them all before Issue 12 hits your mailbox.

 

Recommended:

The Anathemata by David Jones, In an I by Popahna Brandes, Gold Fame Citrusby Claire Vaye Watkins, and The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison by Maggie Smith.

Olivia ZhengFriday Reads: October 2016
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