A Review of Brian Doyle’s Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

There are moments in my small rural life that make everything else fall away. These moments make for a good life—sitting around the dining room table with my children and friends, drinking wine or cider, telling stories about Edward Abbey or anarchy or the dissent of the western environmental activist, all while the fire burns...
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

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A Review of Girl Behind the Door: A Memoir of Delirium and Dementia

Ideally, a memoir’s title suggests the author’s tone as well as his or her overall vision for the work. Stephanie Dickinson’s Girl Behind the Door: A Memoir of Delirium and Dementia brings to mind Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. As with Stein, who isn’t Toklas, Dickinson isn’t Girl. But whereas Stein actively...

A Review of Lia Purpura’s Scream: or Never Minding

In the midst of the recent #MeToo campaign, I turned to Facebook to ask the women in my life a question that burns in my bones every time another story of power abuse or systemic injustice violence bursts open on social media: what do you do with unfettered rage? I was soon inundated with a...

A Review of Gayle Brandeis’s The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide

Diagnosis—and its constant cousin, misdiagnosis—form the intertwining narrative strands of The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide, which explores the storytelling and guesswork that often surround mental and physical illness. It’s a memoir about Gayle Brandeis coming to terms with her mother’s suicide, as well as a detective narrative that follows her as she...

A Review of John Hodgman’s Vacationland

At some point as I was dancing to 50 Cent on top of a red vinyl booth at Angel’s Rock Bar, Thursday night slid into Friday morning, and someone shouted “Happy birthday, Kevin! How’s it feel to be twenty-five?” “Shit,” I thought. “Twenty-five.” It’d never crossed my mind. By that age Mary Shelley had written...

A Review of Morten Strøksnes’ Shark Drunk

The subject of Morten Strøksnes’ Shark Drunk: The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean is a 1,300-pound fish that lives 4,000 feet below the freezing surface of the North Pole. The shark remains off-stage most of the book, but the premise is entirely dependent on the...

A Review of Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s The Fact of the Body

I’m writing a book about someone who made some bad decisions. She bought a gun, kidnapped a woman, held up a bank, and on the very last day of her life shot at SWAT officers. Camilla Hall’s protest of injustice in America in the 1970s—as a member of the violent Symbionese Liberation Army—took a violent...

A Review of Alice Anderson’s Some Bright Morning I’ll Fly Away

Some Bright Morning I’ll Fly Away, by Alice Anderson, is not only a telling of a battered woman’s storm-ravaged life, it’s also a story of redemption, resilience, survival, and a reclamation of one’s true self in face of one trauma after another. The cascade of events begins with her father, whose sexual abuse of his...

Review of Kelly Davio’s It’s Just Nerves: Notes on a Disability

As many essayists and memoirists know, poets often stroll into nonfiction and bowl a perfect strike, knocking us all over like so many bowling pins. Kelly Davio’s skill as a poet is in full effect in the pages of her new essay collection, It’s Just Nerves: Notes on a Disability. She’s underselling with that word...

A Review of Eileen Myles’s Afterglow

When I read Eileen Myles’s most famous book, Chelsea Girls, I found myself regretting my mild little life. It’s a book wrought from the chaos of New York City in the 1970s: sex, crime, booze and drugs, poverty, and poetry. None of that had ever been in my life. My experience with Chelsea Girls was...

A Review of Elena Passarello’s Animals Strike Curious Poses

One day I noticed a dead cedar waxwing outside my front door. There it lay in the dirt with its black-rimmed eyes, red-tipped wings, and yellow-dipped tail, every detail whole and perfect and distinct. It was so unlike other dead birds I’ve seen, like the mangled leftovers of my cat’s dinner or some battered, city-stained...

A Review of Dawit Gebremichael Habte’s Gratitude in Low Voices

Gratitude forms the heart of Dawit Gebremichael Habte’s new memoir. Gratitude for people, for opportunities, for everyone and everything that helped Habte get to where he is today. As a refugee from Eritrea, Habte had a long, complicated journey to America. Gratitude in Low Voices: A Memoir documents that journey, and in so doing it...

A Review of Jennifer Sinor’s Letters Like the Day

The other day, I came across a stack of letters, written in 1974, by my high school boyfriend. When I left for college, he stayed home. We couldn’t afford to talk by phone, so we wrote. Reading the first letter, I hear this sweet boy’s voice, almost as if he were next to me. How...

A Review of Eric LeMay’s Essays On The Essay And Other Essays

Eric LeMay’s new interactive collection Essays On The Essay And Other Essays asks readers to click, scroll, select, and “drive” through the first collection of its kind. “LeMay is the future of the essay,” says Ned Stuckey-French, “but fortunately he’s here now.” In this interview, Sarah Minor writes to LeMay about the tensions between the tradition of...

A Review of Jennifer Sinor’s Ordinary Trauma: A Memoir

At a writing conference I recently attended, a panelist fielded a question from an attendee about what makes a good memoir. I’m intimately fascinated by this question since I devour memoirs and am writing my own. The panelist told this story: a creative writing professor he knows was asked by a student why she received...

A Review of Jennifer Latson’s The Boy Who Loved Too Much

Gayle D’Angelo was worried about her son. While his classmates in daycare were learning to walk and talk, Eli would simply coo and smile, then hold out his arms for a hug. “He catapulted himself into the arms of a schoolmate’s mother one day and climbed into the lap of a burly man at a...

A Review of Dani Shapiro’s Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

Dani Shapiro’s new memoir Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage is an investigation into what happens when two people promise to abandon their individual paths in life and go down the same one together. It asks what we lose and gain in making the choice to link our life to another’s. It looks, too, at the selves that fall away...