7 Most-Favorable Reviews in April 2020

  • May 6, 2020

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 April 2020

The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren (Vintage). Reviewed by Gretchen Lida. “We might combat climate crises by leaving copies of Hope Jahren’s The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here in strategic public places: on those display racks by the drink coolers in corner stores; near checkout counters at Tractor Supply; in every DMV line in America. If there’s one book all of us should read about the state of the environment, it’s this one.”

Afterlife: A Novel by Julia Alvarez (Algonquin Books). Reviewed by Heidi Mastrogiovanni. “When a book is touted as one of the most anticipated of the year, expectations are understandably high. When said book is written by a bestselling author (who last published an adult novel nearly 15 years ago), it’s not surprising that those expectations are elevated even more. But a gold-medal pole vaulter couldn’t clear the highest bar with more grace and assurance than Julia Alvarez does in Afterlife.”

The German Heiress: A Novel by Anika Scott (William Morrow Paperbacks). Reviewed by Janet A. Martin. “Not since college years ago have I read a book straight through in one sitting. But recently, with The German Heiress by Anika Scott, I found myself one morning in a plush armchair, suggesting excuses for supper leftovers to my husband, or, in a pinch, slow cooking in a crockpot — anything I could think of to allow me to stay put and savor this alluring novel about a woman known as the ‘Iron Fraulein.’”

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel by Cho Nam-joo; translated by Jamie Chang (Liveright). Reviewed by Alice Stephens. “While the story is recognizable to women the world over, it is a damning portrait of South Korean society in particular. From the ineffable pressure to have a son that forces Jiyoung’s mother to undergo a sex-selection abortion, to the legal precedence men enjoy over women, to the unending drudgery of a housewife’s chores (which include preparing three elaborate meals a day), Cho paints a bleak picture of the average South Korean woman’s life.”

Swimming in the Dark: A Novel by Tomasz Jedrowski (William Morrow). Reviewed by Robert Allen Papinchak. “Jedrowski’s exquisite novel vividly traces the life of immigrant Ludwik Glowacki from his childhood in Poland to that country’s declaration of martial law, which Ludwik hears about on the radio while living in the Slavic community of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. From the ‘dreadful safety of America,’ he is instantly thrown back to a time before ‘loneliness covered [him] like night-blue tar.’”

Disengagement: A Novel by Daniella Levy (Kasva Press). Reviewed by Philip K. Jason. “Levy’s storytelling, however, is best approached without such historical trappings. Its heart is found in the settlers’ varied reactions to the Israeli government’s decision in 2005 to send its soldiers into the settlements for the purpose of destroying them. That is, destroying the lives and hopes of Israeli citizens. Readers receive heart-wrenching descriptions of individual reactions to this disastrous upheaval in their lives. Several of these passages have the grace and resonance of prose poems.”

Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O’Connell (Doubleday). Reviewed by Colin Asher. “Part jeremiad and part travelogue, the book reports on the subcultures of doomsday preppers, billionaire survivalists, and Mars-colony advocates. O’Connell visits the Alladale Wilderness Reserve, a vast expanse of land denuded by industrial activity that is being rewilded, and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The book is full of wry humor, and O’Connell is an earnest, self-effacing narrator wise enough to employ filial love as recurrent theme to give his book emotional ballast. His greatest virtue, however, is his talent as a critic and interpreter.”  

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