The author effectively balances an almost all-female cast of characters without falling prey to literary cliches or devolving into a feminist manifesto. In this intimate book centered around different ways of seeing and knowing, Knox takes on the challenge of trying to decipher the messy relationships that women have with each other and does so seamlessly while also highlighting the challenges of female agency in America over the past century.
Fyfe does a terrific job in capturing both the seductive pull of T’s need and his rapid decline and things begin to disintegrate. Told in third person narrative, with T’s point of view, the story follows T’s various attempts to score, sell, find a place to live, and in some odd way, to find meaning. To say that T’s world is grungy would be an understatement, but Fyfe’s writing is consistently rich and poetic.
It is not just the style and formatting that is soaked with the understanding of time, but the prose itself which is permeated with the musings and misgivings about the passing of time, and the understanding of times influence on the world that surrounds. The first section of the book is half of the text, and through it the reader comes to understand that Lanny, like Dead Papa Toothwort, is so in tune with the earth that he doesn’t follow the rationality of humans, of the mundane.
The story begins in medias res, with Roland Baines, in his home in Clapham, waking from a nightmare about his boyhood piano lessons, and realizing that he is now a grown man taking care of his infant son, Lawrence. Roland is “the baby’s bed and his god.” Alissa, Roland’s wife, has vanished, leaving a note telling him not to find her. “I have been living the wrong life. Please try to forgive me,” she wrote.
The book is fast paced, drawing you in from the first chapter, and progressing with exciting turns in a way that the book is always pleasurable and satisfying, and even the worst antagonists are treated with empathy. It’s hard not to like Gus, who is always ready to lend a helping hand or a basket of fresh picked zucchinis and corn. Lazar is a master craftsman and pays careful attention to language, plot, pacing and character so that all of the elements tie together neatly and seamlessly, description charged with rich nostalgia
Harper’s novel will engage fans of generational sagas and family dramas where long-buried family histories and secrets are unearthed, and where past choices explicitly affect the present and future of others in a snowball effect. The novel excels at revealing motherhood—or parenting––truly: falling in love with a person you’ve helped to create, and, in doing so, loving yourself in ways you couldn’t imagine; knowing you will sacrifice absolutely everything for them.
You might be excused for thinking this particular carton of tropes has languished in the back of the Frigidaire long past its freshness date. You might be excused, that is, if you haven’t read Lise Haines’ deliciously creepy Book of Knives. To enter this modern gothic is to enter a realm of deep and unmooring uncertainty, where the living may prey on the living and the dead — just possibly — might help or harm.
Some forty years ago, in Jackson, not far Loring, a similar bottle of Four Roses was opened. It’s a significant detail in this story of the Cole sisters, that ends where it began, that comes full circle, with many detours along the way. Individuals, with marked differences, both sisters are resilient, vulnerable, and passionate, characters so life-like a reader feels “the air making contact with their skin.”
With a novel this boldly experimental, it is hard to get very far in a discussion of influences without Beckett’s name coming up. But that is just one of the names in a diverse stew. Dinesh said that Beckett and others represent some of the less conscious influences here, and other visionaries more directly inspired the themes, tone, and style of This Place That Place.
But don’t read Hutch for the plot, read it for the language–seductive, entertaining and leading readers wonderfully astray. Insert your own line breaks and it can at times read like poetry, or a game of word pick up sticks. A throw away character is “a wonky Christian philanthropist—now a resident of Quebec.” The effect of Gunty’s linguistic pile ons are like a Wes Anderson movie.