7 Most Favorable Reviews in June 2021

  • July 6, 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 June 2021

Great Circle: A Novel by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf). Reviewed by Clarissa Harwood. “The opening pages make for a vertiginous reading experience because of the many characters, settings, and time periods introduced in quick succession. Shipstead is willing to risk losing the reader from the outset, mimicking in narrative form the daring flying maneuvers Marian loves to perform. But this novel richly rewards the reader willing to follow where it leads, and it soon becomes clear that the alternating omniscient and third-person-limited narration also mimics in narrative form the central theme of circular movement.”

The Guild of the Infant Saviour: An Adopted Child’s Memory Book by Megan Culhane Galbraith (Mad Creek Books). Reviewed by Alice Stephens. “To be an adoptee is to be a hybrid grafted onto a new family tree, an experiment in social engineering. To fully express the composite nature of the adoptee experience, Megan Culhane Galbraith has created an achingly beautiful hybrid memoir, The Guild of the Infant Saviour, blending the visual with the literary to convey the complexities of the adopted person’s search for identity and belonging.”

Monkey Boy: A Novel by Francisco Goldman (Grove Press). Reviewed by Chris Rutledge. “These more powerful themes save Monkey Boy from becoming just another ‘men without women’ tale. To be sure, the reader is treated to a rundown of Frankie’s many girlfriends. He schedules a dinner with an old high school crush, reminisces over his college love, reflects on women he has met while traveling, and deliberates on the meaning of his current relationship. Yet this is no list of conquests. Instead, we see Frankie reflecting on the pivotal role women have played in his life, providing him safety and succor over the years. They have helped soften the isolation and loneliness he experienced first as an abused child, later as a wandering writer detached from close relations, and always as a racial outsider.”

Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II by Daniel James Brown (Viking). Reviewed by Paul D. Pearlstein. “Facing the Mountain is a splendid book. Daniel James Brown’s writing is compelling, and his depictions of battle scenes are frighteningly authentic. By capturing the personalities and emotions of the people who lived through this part of WWII, he has illuminated some of the best and worst moments of our nation’s history and has also inspired hope that we can do better.”

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Ballantine Books). Reviewed by Lawrence De Maria. “Project Hail Mary is not everyone’s cup of Tau. (That’s not a misprint; you’ll have to read the book — which I hope you do — to get the pun.) In fact, its author, Andy Weir, has many detractors who point out that his writing style leaves much to be desired, his humor is borderline juvenile, and he can be politically preachy. All of this is somewhat true, but it’s beside the point. As he proved in his breakout novel, The Martian, Weir can spin a yarn and make a reader think.”

Shoko’s Smile: Stories by Choi Eunyoung; translated by Sung Ryu (Penguin Books). Reviewed by Emily Mitchell. “Similarly, in ‘Hanji and Youngju,’ the narrator, a young Korean woman, develops an intense friendship with a Kenyan man she meets while both are volunteering at a monastery in France. At some point, their relationship goes wrong, and he stops speaking to her. But despite the narrator’s best efforts, she cannot figure out the cause of their estrangement, what she might have said or done to upset or offend her friend. The reader can’t, either. Instead, we are left with the gut-punch of that lost intimacy and no tidy way to reassure ourselves that the same thing wouldn’t happen to us under comparable circumstances.”

War on the Border: Villa, Pershing, the Texas Rangers, and an American Invasion by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by William Rice. “As a history buff who unrealistically expects order in past events, I was always irrationally disturbed that the U.S./Mexican expedition occurred in the midst of Europe’s Great War. It seemed to me as if every war should have the stage to itself. But Guinn makes clear that these two conflicts, far from intruding on each other’s independent storyline, were instead closely connected.”

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