7 Most-Favorable Reviews in April 2021

  • May 5, 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 April 2021

On Fragile Waves: A Novel by E. Lily Yu (Erewhon Books). Reviewed by Janet A. Martin. “The fictional journey juxtaposes the opposing poles of human emotion: doubt and faith, fear and comfort, hope and despair. The family travels endless days filled with dread and numbing cultural indifference from others. The horrific events portrayed are made endurable by the author’s skillful use of characterization and poetic imagery. Light touches are introduced as the parents weave indigenous myths and mystical tales of heroism into the family’s plight to inspire their children and soften their fright. Thus, with Yu’s careful handling of language, a fatal monsoon becomes a terrible — and, paradoxically beautiful — conquest of fear. The reader, like the listening children, becomes captive to the majesty of well-fashioned prose.”

The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance by Ross King (Atlantic Monthly Press). Reviewed by Eugene L. Meyer. “The bookseller of the title of this fine work is Vespasiano da Bisticci, a once-prominent purveyor and producer of handwritten, handbound volumes who held forth in his shop on the Via dei Librai (the Street of Booksellers) in 15th-century Florence. But though he is the central character, Vespasiano is also the vehicle through which New York Times-bestselling author Ross King writes about the centuries-long evolution of bookmaking, from the use of papyrus and parchment in ancient times, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance Italy, into the industrial age of the printing press.”

The Jigsaw Man: A Novel by Nadine Matheson (Hanover Square Press). Reviewed by K.L. Romo. “Throughout this addictive story, author Matheson brings focus to the reality of ‘the less dead,’ victims from communities of color or other marginalized groups whose cases aren’t vigorously pursued. Henley and Ramouter, both detectives of color, share ‘an inherent understanding that came from a lifetime of assumptions based on the colour of their skin. Henley had lost count of how many times she walked through the doors of New Scotland Yard, only to be stopped by some overzealous officer.’ Over and over, they must prove themselves worthy to do their job.”

Finding Napoleon: A Novel by Margaret Rodenberg (She Writes Press). Reviewed by Colleen Kennedy. “Rodenberg’s Napoleon — concerned about his expanding waistline, his stomach troubles (his father died of stomach cancer when Napoleon was young), and his sexual appetites — is suffering from middle-age malaise. The former emperor turns to gardening, long baths, dalliances, and squaring off with the petty tyrant and governor of St. Helena, the English Sir Hudson Lowe. This Napoleon is finely fleshed out both in his paunch and his earthiness.” 

Girlhood by Melissa Febos (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. “Melissa Febos, who eloquently describes the patriarchy as ‘an elegant machinery whose pistons fire silently inside our own minds, and whose gleaming gears we mistake for our own jewelry,’ makes great strides in exposing the inner workings of that machine. Girlhood is a book that deserves to be savored, to be read more than once, to be given to all the people in your life — not just the girls and women — because we are all responsible for ensuring that every person be able to live by their own narrative.”

The Souvenir Museum: Stories by Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco). Reviewed by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi. “In reading McCracken — here, in her latest story collection, The Souvenir Museum — most often, I find myself laughing with simple delight at her just-so-right-ness. She has the eye, ear, and voice for capturing the essence of the world as it unfurls around all of us — trapping us, dragging us along, leaving many of us trailing in its wake. She’s right in the scrum with us, sharing it all: the absurd, the miraculous, the horrific, the utterly banal. In McCracken’s hands, it’s gold.”

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner (Knopf). Reviewed by Alice Stephens. “Zauner is keenly aware that her good fortune is born of the tragedy of her mother’s death, which inspired the songs that would become her first album and the essays that would become her first memoir. Her facility with language, her graceful ability to translate complicated topics into a coherent narrative thread, her illuminating reflections on loss, and her poignant insights into the mixed-race child’s yearning to belong mark this as a genuine literary debut rather than the usual dreary exercise in building a celebrity platform.”

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