PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe jaunty narrative tone conveys an atmosphere of airy loveliness that lends disturbing events an aura of unreality. A critique of the novel might contend that it keeps us swirling in the clouds of pretty language, rather than planting us down firmly into the characters’ difficult experiences ... Representing the power of other arts in writing is a tricky matter — can you convince the reader who has purchased, say, a $27 hardcover, that, for these few chapters, she has front-row seats at a Broadway show? O’Neill pulls this off, in part, because the nature of the theatrical spectacle Rose and Pierrot and company have created speaks to the mesmerizing effects of the novel itself ... The mournful ending of The Lonely Hearts Hotel is all the more wrenching for the delicate narrative touch throughout the novel, which has stirred up hope for a happily-ever-after finale for Pierrot and Rose.
Last Day On EarthEric Puchner
RaveThe San Francisco ChroniclePuchner’s affecting collection explores the endings of things — relationships, childhood, the illusion that one is a morally upstanding person — as well as what endures for the sympathetic characters in these nine stories. Puchner is especially good at depicting adolescent boys mystified by adulthood and adults flummoxed by children ... This is top-notch realistic fiction, sensitive to the complexities of more or less ordinary lives.
New PeopleDanzy Senna
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe thorniness of desire is inextricably intertwined here with the fraught history of race in America, and, as in Senna’s previous work, she aims to satirize characterizations of racial identity at every turn ...as an embodiment of the ways in which liberal-minded folks may not recognize their own blind spots when it comes to race, Senna’s seeming contrivance is perhaps painfully astute ... New People is not a beautiful novel, not the kind of book I finished reading with a deliciously mournful sigh. It is relentlessly grim — about the constructions of race in America and the consequences of those constructions, and about what constitutes bourgeois success — and it is this grimness that bestows its harsh ring of truth.