Book Reviews Archive

Refusing Detachment in Ada Limón’s The Hurting Kind

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Limón’s new collection refuses numb detachment or an easy forgetting. She affords constant dignity to those whose fragilities are too often framed as liabilities, those who can’t (or won’t) avoid the incessant constellating of experience and memory.

Meaningless Craft and Crafting Meaning in Ali Smith’s Companion Piece

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Craft, in Ali Smith’s hand, is malleable. It produces meaning that is disparate from the terms and antecedents of its making.

The Body Family’s Sharp and Intimate Portrayal of Trauma

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Here we have trauma in its contradictory particularity, its incalculable aleatory combinations—not flattened or reduced at all, but sharp, salient, and intimate.

A Layered History in DeMisty D. Bellinger’s New to Liberty

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DeMisty D. Bellinger’s new novel beautifully showcases the way history endures within us, and how while someone else’s past may influence our present moment, we still have agency.

Collective Despair in Ana Blandiana’s Five Books

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The poems in Romanian poet Ana Blandiana’s collection offer an uncensored, searing reality of the poverty that Communism created, depicted as an imagistic tragedy from the perspective of those who suffered through it.

Desire and Destruction in Kate Folk’s Out There

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Kate Folk’s narrative voice makes even the strangest, most self-destructive desires seem reasonable. Her stories exist between the strange and the familiar, and the ambivalence that characters feel about what they’re doing or what’s happening to them makes them feel all the more real.

Facing Pandemic Memories in Mary Jo Salter’s Zoom Rooms

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The poems in Mary Jo Salter's collection invite readers to consider what we will remember from a time that feels unforgettable now. As COVID-19 begins to take up less and less space in our heads, will it be more than distant memory, something almost unintelligible to future generations?

Death Rituals and Found Families in Olivia Clare Friedman’s Here Lies

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The natural world is a member of the found family of Friedman's protagonist, and a character she gets to know over the course of the novel. As the world around her is collapsing, she is left to address what still matters.

Personal and Academic Pursuits in Elaine Hsieh Chou’s Disorientation

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Elaine Hsieh Chou’s debut is not only an outrageously enjoyable academic mystery, but also a moving portrayal of self-discovery.

Decay and Rebirth in Irene Solà’s When I Sing, Mountains Dance

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Irene Solà reveals the beauty and brutality of life in a mountain village that holds the scars of the past, but also the seeds of slow repair and renewal.