Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but HereAngela Palm
PositiveThe Chicago Tribune...there is volumetric power here. Sizable intrigue in the sentences. Bold declarations that (as all memoir must) destabilize the reader and paralyze easy judgment on both the life lived and the words chosen. Angela Palm has left the river and returned to it. Angela Palm has arrived.
The Pier FallsMark Haddon
RaveThe Chicago TribuneI read the nine stories in Mark Haddon's new collection, The Pier Falls, over nine consecutive days — one bracing plunge every 24 hours. Anything more would have amounted to a violation of my own imagination. Anything less would have registered as disrespect for the devastating power of these eerily precise and dangerously suffusing episodes in the lives of mostly lost, lonesome, or abandoned people ... It's one thing to know and write brilliantly about how the world works. It's an entirely different thing to write with deep assurance about what happens when conventions are broken, relationships are scrubbed of ordinary decencies, and the mind shatters. Reality, in Haddon's stories, is endlessly decaying.
RaveThe Chicago TribuneI am a memoir connoisseur. I teach the form. I read dozens upon dozens of 'true' stories every year, and only two or three stand out. Dear Mr. You stands out.
When Breath Becomes AirPaul Kalanithi
RaveThe Chicago TribuneWe ache for this man, we hurt for this marriage, we cry when this couple decides that yes, a child, their child, will be born; their daughter, Cady, will carry Kalanithi forward in the ways that children do. We think of all the patients who benefited from Kalanithi's sheer humanity (not to mention those admirable surgical skills) and all those who will never have the honor of having him stand by their bedside.
The Dogs of LittlefieldSuzanne Berne
RaveThe Chicago TribuneBerne is exceedingly good at social commentary. She captures the anxiety that seeps in through the young affluents, the unhappiness that attends those who are supposed to be happy.
Imagine Wanting Only ThisKristen Radtke
RaveThe Chicago Tribune...one of the most haunting graphic memoirs I've ever read ... [Radtke] has forsaken and been forsaken, she is audacious and vulnerable, she takes risks and she is wounded by what the world is and how it bends back upon itself. As we turn the pages on her journey, we are ravaged and ravished ... With time and its doings as her subject, rot and decay, she does not adhere to strict chronology. She renders mold and splotch and broken things as both terrifying and lovely ... her work is as wonderful and heartbreaking the second time through. I'm still scooped out, but I'm still deeply grateful for the towering power of Radtke's vision.
Music of the GhostsVaddey Ratner
PositiveThe Chicago TribuneAs Ratner leads her readers to the ultimate collision of guilt and forgiveness, darkness and song, she offers instruction in history and Cambodian culture, some of which is seamlessly interwoven into the lush narrative and some of which feels interruptive, perhaps didactic. There are places, too, where the language overreaches, where a single descriptor might have been more powerful or a simpler word might have gotten the job done ... The deeper I read into Music of the Ghosts, the more engrossed I became in the tangled skeins that define her characters' lives, in the history that her fiction illuminates, in the perceptions that could break a reader's heart.
The Gypsy Moth SummerJulia Fierro
PositiveThe Chicago TribuneFierro is a writer capable of glorious sentences. She recalls with fastidious care the songs and lip gloss and fashions of the early 1990s, has an ear for weather and landscape, and moves her story briskly through its many cohering parts. Avalon is far from a hospitable place. Its inhabitants, monied or not, are often vulgar. Excess is its own devastation; excess is tragedy. Too much of too much — cash, sex, greed, bugs — rarely does end well.
You Don't Have To Say You Love MeSherman Alexie
RaveThe Chicago TribuneYou Don't Have to Say You Love Me is a marvel of emotional transparency, a story told with the fewest possible filters by a writer grieving the loss of a complicated mother ... Alexie's memoir is deliberately ragged, deliberately inflated, deliberately redundant. Alexie is a writer who will use a single word again and again in a single sentence or scene, like a drum beat; he is a writer who will, unabashed, present the same facts inside new frames. There are 160 numbered sections over the course of more than 450 pages, and sometimes the most poignant moments are contained in the chapter titles. Sometimes poignancy arises in the ways Alexie breaks out of a poem and into prose and back again, and sometimes in the juxtaposition between Alexie's pain and his mother's.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a WalkKathleen Rooney
RaveThe Chicago TribuneWhile the novel's structure can at times feel claustrophobic — this one-to-one correspondence between the triggering present and the recalled past — Lillian's voice is anything but. Highly energetic and supremely self-knowing, not a little boastful and perpetually clever, Lillian slices the world with bright blades of humor. She makes it her business to say precisely what she sees ... Rooney proves herself to be a tireless puppeteer in Lillian Boxfish — a writer with no apparent end of the cleverly turned phrase, the thoughtful insights into advertising, the intelligent musings on the process of creation. Rooney is marvelously self-aware as well, anticipating readerly responses right there in the pages of this book ... a perfect fusing of subject and writer, idea and ideal, voice and voice.
RaveThe Chicago TribuneI believe Geraldine Brooks' new novel, March, is a very great book. I believe it breathes new life into the historical fiction genre, the borrowing-a-character-from-the-deep-past phenomenon, the old I-shall-tell-you-a-story-through-letters tradition. I believe it honors the best of the imagination. I give it a hero's welcome … The book's protagonist, one Mr. March, has, in other words, been borrowed twice--first from a beloved novel (a novel that was extrapolated from Alcott's own life) and second from history. He is, however, no mere pastiche; Brooks has magnificently wielded the novelist's license, shifting some facts and superimposing the demands of story over the sometimes less-compelling signposts of the past … However brilliant it is, the conceit of March is only part of its glory. It's the story, as it always must be the story, that qualifies March for supreme (forgive the adjective) greatness.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) BodyRoxane Gay
PositiveThe Chicago TribuneThe book is essayistic, built of clipped personal stories and cultural observations. We find repetitions and stutter steps, a deliberate circling of the truth to get to the truth. There are, in fact, few full-blown scenes; instead we encounter mere touches of landscape, spare indications of weather, little recorded dialogue and few dominating characters … But there is more one senses, so much more, and if one grows slightly frustrated by that which remains off the page, one must remember as one reads that Gay is focused on her body, that she is writing about hunger, about violations, about the sanctity and sanity of resistance, that she has something to say about seeing and being seen … She deserves the final word.