PanThe Portland Press Herald...[a] bludgeoningly sentimental novel ... there are many ways in which Lily and the Octopus is like observing an exhausting tantrum ... this emotional breakthrough doesn’t feel earned through an organic evolution. Instead the whole octopus business comes across as a coy device, simply the means by which the writer stalls the inevitable breakthrough and death scene with enough padding to make it a book.
The Excellent LombardsJane Hamilton
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...[a] tender, astute look behind the scenes at a small-scale family farm in the years when the locavore movement was just taking hold ... The Excellent Lombards is about possession, succession and the uneasy balance of power between multigenerational farmers. Mary Frances goes by many names but as expertly rendered by Hamilton she’s a storybook character, an inquisitive, imperious but lovable girl akin to Harper Lee’s Jean Louise Finch, Rumer Godden’s Cecil Grey or Ian McEwan’s Briony Tallis.
The Women in the CastleJessica Shattuck
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewAlthough she creates an odd family of sorts, this is definitely not a story of plucky women banding together to fix up a chilly home. Their recoveries are burdened with unending guilt, and while they’re sharing the deprivations of the present, very often they’re keeping secrets about the traumas of the past, even from one another. Shattuck’s characters represent the range of responses to fascism. Her achievement — beyond unfolding a plot that surprises and devastates — is in her subtle exploration of what a moral righteousness like Marianne’s looks like in the aftermath of war, when communities and lives must be rebuilt, together.
The Stars Are FireAnita Shreve
MixedThe New York Times Book Review...[a] swiftly paced if occasionally soppy saga ... Grace muses, 'Is it from musical notes that true longing is born?' How much you enjoy this book may depend on whether you can answer that question in the affirmative. If life were anything like a Shreve novel, Match.com would be a website selling the wooden sticks to light fires with. But how the pages turn, even the ones padded with Grace’s not entirely believable ambivalence over matters large and small ... Shreve has a gift for making the mundane engaging.