Category: Book Reviews

Book Reviews

A review of Stopgap Grace by Neil McCarthy

The poems are dense, lusty in the old sense of the word—in their intentness on the uniqueness of each contemplated experience. McCarthy’s metaphors are fresh and lovely; line-by-line, the writing is often astonishingly beautiful.

A review of We Will Tell You Otherwise by Beth Mayer

All the story titles involve some form of the verb, “to tell”, because the collection as a whole is about the things people tell themselves and others. Some characters tell themselves the truth and live authentically; others do not. In “But I Will Tell You Otherwise,” Janie and Cha Cha defy social mores and pressures and think for themselves.

A review of Eager to Break by Eliana Gray

Eliana Gray’s latest poetry collection, Eager to Break, is assured, quiet, charming, and intense all at the same time. The work engages directly and openly with inherently distressing themes like sexual violence, mental illness, fear, PTSD and its many manifestations and loss, but always, and perhaps uniquely, with a muted joy – as if the opportunity to play with words this way, against such pain, were a gift.

A review of Belief by Les Wicks

Belief is an elaborate mosaic where the tiles are words; paradoxes, satire and the vernacular adorn the pages of this beautifully crafted book. Belief is divided into seven sections, each section opens a door to two worlds: one the writer’s imagination and psyche and the other opens to the external world.

A review of Great American Desert by Terese Svoboda

Svoboda’s characters contend with people who came before them: daughters with fathers, grandchildren with grandfathers, high-schoolers with college drop-outs. There is always someone there to blow the seeds into your face. Someone to obscure the vision. There is always something that manages to be not-there: pollution that is not believed in, menace that can be tied in conversation, meanness in the expectations of filial duty.

Leaning into the “Crazy”: Reflections on The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

Wang’s genius partly comes from her ability to write about her illness with seemingly perfect clarity, as the sufferer and the scientist. The book is a testament to her brain—a brain working so well that it can so effectively describe the torment it causes her. Especially since, as Wang reminds us, schizophrenia is a disease of “loosening of associations,” in which the mind is working so hard within the person—against the person—to rid itself of itself.

A review of The Man Who Can’t Die by Jon Frankel

The story is long, which works well for readers like me who hate to see a good book end; and the story is well-knit, which works well for scholars who want to tease out influences, tangents and themes. Frankel paints spot-on portraits of the male sex symbol, poor kids in privileged schools, Big Science, and environmentalists. Like Proust, he uses smell as a motif and a motivator.

A review of Made by Mary by Laura Catherine Brown

With depth in relationships that celebrate the chaos and imperfect love of mothers and daughters, lovers with lovers, and between friends, Brown delivers a beautiful and painful reminder that love often includes disappointment and failure, but also redemption and forgiveness. In the end, the human connection no matter how fallible, regardless of trappings of belief, is necessary for our survival.