7 Most-Favorable Reviews in January 2021

  • February 9, 2021

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.

7 Most-Favorable Reviews in January 2021

The Horror Is Us, edited by Justin Sanders (Mason Jar Press). Reviewed by Antoaneta Tileva. “Riffing on that famous quip that ‘horror is other people,’ the authors in this slim, affecting anthology from Baltimore-based Mason Jar Press speak of the horror that is us. The stories are pithy — most run just a few pages — but powerful in their parsimony…Though spare, The Horror Is Us is nonetheless incisive and provocative. Its stories are smartly curated and fleshy, making it a must-read for any fan of the horror genre in its most modern iteration.”

A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Crown). Reviewed by Tom Glenn. “Unlike so many other famous men, Obama does all his writing himself — he doesn’t depend on ghostwriters. And the writing is, for the most part, superb. That is because Obama is so well read. He obviously has made it his business over his life to read deeply and broadly. His occasional references to other writers only hint at the breadth of his knowledge.”

Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause by Ty Seidule (St. Martin’s Press). Reviewed by Kitty Kelley. “Ty Seidule writes with the passion of a convert who’s seen the light and needs to shine it for other to save them from “the lies and tropes” that blinded him for so many years. Robert E. Lee and Me is a cri de coeur, one man’s journey to humanity and his salvation from the pernicious lies of white supremacy.”

Snow: A Novel by John Banville (Hanover Square Press). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “In Snow, the Booker Prize-winning author seizes on this platform and lets it run away with him. He displaces the action to 1950s Ireland, bleakly fogbound and beset with an unusually heavy snowfall. As if to double down on the miasma of his setting, Banville recasts the standard array of dress-for-dinner types you’re likely conversant with from Dame Agatha and her fellow travelers. It’s a creepy lot deeply permeated, like the nation itself, with received religious and class certitudes.”

Aftershocks: A Memoir by Nadia Owusu (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Patricia Ann McNair. “At times, the memoir is lyrical, and other times, told with straightforward scenes and narrative techniques. Some readers might long for more story, for the writer to more fully tell these scenes and plumb those experiences. This is not that sort of book. It is as much an exploration of Owusu’s interiority as a retelling of anything she observes or does.”

Imagining Iraq: Stories by Bárbara Mujica (Living Springs Publishers). Reviewed by Tom Young. “The themes — violence and fear, hard moral choices, veteran suicide — will sound familiar to readers of war literature. Imagining Iraq brings to mind books such as Redeployment by Phil Klay or The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. However, Mujica brings a fresh perspective, writing as a mother and a mentor to those seared by war.”

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark (Knopf). Reviewed by Anne C. Heller. “Clark — drawing upon previously untapped court and family papers, diaries, calendars, and caches of letters (including to the poet’s psychiatrist in Plath’s final months), as well as the long-restricted archives of Hughes — sets out to reimagine and reposition Plath as a first-class poet and a fully realized woman: gifted from childhood, both intensely industrious and passionately sensual, bravely ambitious in an era that undercut and ridiculed girls’ and women’s aspirations, disciplined, trailblazing, and the author of a few of the most enduring and original poems of the last century.”

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