7 Most Favorable Reviews in January 2022

  • February 3, 2022

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 2022

Her Name Is Knight by Yasmin Angoe (Thomas & Mercer). Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski. “Her Name Is Knight is more than just another thriller in a glutted genre; it spotlights the often unspoken and grim reality of human trafficking and unflinchingly details the horrors of grief, loss, and oppression many women suffer inside Africa and out. But it doesn’t stop there, and thank goodness. Nena Knight draws strength from her family (biological and chosen) and friends (old and new) and through her decision to reclaim her power. The pages never stop moving, and new fans of Angoe (like this reviewer) will eagerly await the next installment of Nena’s journey.”

Watching Darkness Fall: FDR, His Ambassadors, and the Rise of Adolf Hitler by David McKean (St. Martin’s Press). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “Watching Darkness Fall focuses on the diplomatic run-up to World War II in the 1930s. Meticulous, gripping, and steeped in palpable authenticity, David McKean’s saga zeroes in on a segment of the story not often covered in detail: the activities of four U.S. ambassadors in key European capitals, including the notable hot spots of Berlin, Paris, and Moscow. McKean’s book gives us an engaging picture of diplomatic Washington’s reaction — or absence thereof — in the face of Hitler’s calculating maneuvers with Mussolini in Italy and Stalin in the Soviet Union, of the Führer’s fulminations against German Jews, and ultimately with his aggressive territorial strikes on Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France.”

Coolest American Stories 2022, edited by Mark Wish and Elizabeth Coffey (Coolest Stories Press). Reviewed by Liz Prato. “So, what makes these stories inherently ‘cool’? In his introduction, co-editor Wish defines cool stories as interesting ones, and interesting ones as those with plot, tension, suspense, and controversy. The tales in Coolest American Stories are surely plot-driven, and yet the characters are what lingered with me the most — not just who they are, but who they want to be and will be. And that’s pretty darn cool: hanging out with folks doing interesting things and wanting to stay with them for days afterward.”

The Maid: A Novel by Nita Prose (Ballantine Books). Reviewed by Tara Laskowski. “The work that goes into an immaculate hotel room often goes unnoticed. One walks into the finished product and appreciates its elegant simplicity, everything crisp and delightful and new. This is how I feel about The Maid, Nita Prose’s short-but-memorable debut crime novel. It’s such a pleasure to experience, readers won’t realize all the behind-the-scenes hard work that goes into crafting such a fun and surprising mystery.”

Manifesto: On Never Giving Up by Bernardine Evaristo (Grove Press). Reviewed by Kitty Kelley. “If ‘perseverance is genius in disguise,’ then Bernardine Evaristo is a 22-carat gold, diamond-encrusted genius. She is the patron saint of persistence and proves it with her ninth book, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up. Having received the 2019 Booker Prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other, Evaristo was the first Black woman and the first Black Brit to win the prize in its 50-year history. So she now has a global audience for her gospel on persevering.”

Defenestrate: A Novel by Renée Branum (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Chris Rutledge. “What is most noteworthy about Defenestrate is how the author threads the theme of falling all through the narrative. Scenes unfold and then recur, looping back on themselves. It can be challenging to recall exactly where you — and the characters — are sometimes, but it’s worth the effort to follow along. As a first novel, Defenestrate is impressively powerful. On page after page, Renée Branum manages to entwine the tall tales that shape all families with the real-world fallout those tales can cause. She also does a masterful job of rendering the sensation of falling, of spiraling in the air. The effect, like the novel itself, is spellbinding.

Mothers, Fathers, and Others: Essays by Siri Hustvedt (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. “Written between 2011 and 2020, the essays in Mothers, Fathers, and Others take on myriad other topics: mourning and burial practices, the nature of mentor relationships, the porous boundaries between physical bodies and fields of study, the challenges of translation, the social phenomenon of scapegoating, and reading during the pandemic, as well as astute studies of literature (Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights) and art (Giovanni Bellini’s ‘St. Francis in Ecstasy’ and the oeuvre of French American artist Louise Bourgeois). Siri Hustvedt’s keen intellect is evident on every page of this stunning collection, proving herself an authority worthy of attention.”

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