7 Most Favorable Reviews in October 2022

  • November 4, 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 October 2022

Lessons: A Novel by Ian McEwan (Knopf). Reviewed by Holly Smith. “Were this a typical contemporary novel, the Very Bad Thing would define its protagonist, muting all that came before and dictating all that follows. The plot would hinge on our hero recognizing the Very Bad Thing as the organizing fact of his life and then overcoming it. By that triumph, we would know him. But McEwan isn’t having it. Instead, he seems to suggest, it’s the accumulated moments both pivotal and pedestrian that make the man. No single incident is ever the whole story.”

The Book of Goose: A Novel by Yiyun Li (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Patricia Schultheis. “The Book of Goose is not as intriguing as a narrative as it is as a vehicle for fundamental inquiries. Just as Fabienne challenges Agnès by asking whether it’s possible to grow happiness, Yiyun Li presents her readers with a fascinating question: What is real — the stories the world concocts about us or the ones we fabricate about ourselves?”

Shrines of Gaiety: A Novel by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you might take Kate Atkinson’s latest for a spin. It’s outstanding. Set in 1920s London, Shrines of Gaiety is aswarm with the playful, oh-so-familiar devices of popular storytelling, and Atkinson lays them on thick: confused identities, narrowly missed encounters, and fateful intersections of happenstance and luck.”

Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us by Rachel Aviv (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. “In crafting compassionate, probing portraits of people who have forged their own stories, Rachel Aviv has written an engrossing and important book that shows how managed care and the current state of mental-health treatment is working from a two-dimensional model that reduces patients to diagnoses and — in some cases — dooms them to ‘careers’ in mental illness that they cannot escape. With Strangers to Ourselves, she reminds us that we are all more complex, more multi-dimensional, more fascinating and mysterious than any single diagnosis, and that the real stories of who we are are worth probing in depth.”

Blurb Your Enthusiasm: An A-Z of Literary Persuasion by Louise Willder (Oneworld Publications). Reviewed by Carrie Callaghan. “The oldest surviving printed advertisement in English is, in fact, for a book. William Caxton printed books in the mid-15th century, and his paper flyer tells readers they can find a particular religious handbook — its quality ‘well and truly correct’ — at his workshop in Westminster. Willder imagines Caxton’s poster hanging discreetly on a church porch, which suggests long-ago priests would find today’s church bulletin boards rather familiar. For those of us who like to feel our common humanity across time, there’s a delicious pleasure in these echoes.”

Thistlefoot: A Novel by GennaRose Nethercott (Anchor Books). Reviewed by Patricia S. Gormley. “The simplicity of Nethercott’s premise belies the richness of her work. She has crafted in Thistlefoot a quirky and heartbreaking journey through time and space that not only engrosses readers but reminds them what it means to be part of a story — particularly one as important as is shared here. Stories about stories are my favorite kind of stories. They are also remarkably tricky to execute, but the author employs her own brand of magic to create a new mythology that will live in your mind as if it’s always been there. She recognizes that stories mean different things even to the people in them, and that they help define us as individuals, as members of groups, and as participants in (or observers of) historical events.”

Sinkhole: A Legacy of Suicide by Juliet Patterson (Milkweed Editions). Reviewed by Gretchen Lida. “The rest of Sinkhole, like the passage above, is written with a stark, white-knuckle honesty that grits its teeth and tells you the story as straight as possible. When a book is brutal, I’m always suspicious that it’s pulling a George R.R. Martin: Employing cruelty for cruelty’s sake. Shock is good for ratings, after all, and dirty laundry sells. Yet the pages-long descriptions of each of the three suicides have a different ethos. Suicide frequently gets lost in the fog of abstractions and platitudes, leaving it with a strange, often dangerous glamour. But nothing is appealing about the self-inflicted deaths in Sinkhole.”

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