Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEWS

Scroll down to browse excerpts from Cleaver’s latest reviews of books by small and indie presses.
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THE MADELEINE PROJECT, a work of creative nonfiction by Clara Beaudoux, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

THE MADELEINE PROJECT, a work of creative nonfiction by Clara Beaudoux, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader
In 2013, a young journalist named Clara Beaudoux moves into a Paris apartment. The previous tenant, a woman named Madeleine, lived there for 20 years before passing away in her nineties. Strangely, Madeleine’s things have not been removed from the cellar. “All I had to do was open a door, ...
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THE FUTURE WON’T BE LONG, a novel by Jarett Kobek, reviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker

THE FUTURE WON’T BE LONG, a novel by Jarett Kobek, reviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker
The New York City of the decade in which The Future Won’t Be Long is set is a city in transition, sloughing off the dirty skin of a seriously fertile artistic period to eventually reveal a heartless skeleton scraped clean by Mayor Giuliani and the NYPD by the book’s end ...
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ISLAND OF POINT NEMO, a novel by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, reviewed by Rachel R. Taube

ISLAND OF POINT NEMO, a novel by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, reviewed by Rachel R. Taube
Island of Point Nemo is a fast-moving adventure story featuring murderers, romance, and preternatural turns. But dig further into those turns, and the novel is ultimately a eulogy to books, both as physical objects and as containers for fiction. Written by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès and newly translated from French ...
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INSURRECTIONS, stories by Rion Amilcar Scott, reviewed by William Morris

INSURRECTIONS, stories by Rion Amilcar Scott, reviewed by William Morris
The stories in Rion Amilcar Scott’s debut collection, Insurrections, are set in Cross River, Maryland, a small East Coast city you won’t find on any map. The city itself is a work of fiction, but the lives of its inhabitants feel startlingly real. Among the Cross Riverians—or Riverbabies, depending on ...
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MAP DRAWN BY A SPY, a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, reviewed by reviewed by Jacqueline Kharouf

MAP DRAWN BY A SPY, a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, reviewed by reviewed by Jacqueline Kharouf
Posthumous novels are both a joy and, sometimes, a let-down. Left behind by an author whose polished work stands as a testament to the full capacity of his or her mind, the words on the page surface at first like an extension from the past. This one last bit of ...
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IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS, a graphic novel by Kristen Radtke, reviewed by Jenny Blair

IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS, a graphic novel by Kristen Radtke, reviewed by Jenny Blair
If we felt attached to and invested in the ground beneath our feet, how would the world be different? What’s the difference between feeling rooted in a place and feeling stuck there? And how is one to face the facts of geographic and human impermanence? ...
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NOTES OF A CROCODILE, a novel by Qiu Miaojin, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

NOTES OF A CROCODILE, a novel by Qiu Miaojin, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader
Lazi argues that mapping secrets and pain can be a matter of life and death, and Qiu’s suicide seems to attest to that. Considering the stresses of our present age, where identities and ideologies are masking and unmasking, the intrapersonal mapping of identity is even more significant for artists that ...
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The Apostle Killer, a novel by Richard Beard, reviewed by Ansel Shipley

The Apostle Killer, a novel by Richard Beard, reviewed by Ansel Shipley
The Apostle Killer by Richard Beard Melville House, 331 pages  reviewed by Ansel Shipley Jesus is the enemy in The Apostle Killer: a socialist anti-establishment religious extremist. In the novel, Richard Beard creates a world that melds both the superstitious past, in which a self-described Messiah could amass a ...
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GOING DARK, stories by Dennis Must, reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner

GOING DARK, stories by Dennis Must, reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner
An aging and dying actor, a blank slate, a forgotten man. This is the first narrator the reader meets in Dennis Must’s 2016 collection of seventeen short stories, Going Dark. The narrator of the title story, though a nobody, shares much in common with the other narrators and characters of ...
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FLOWER WARS, poems by Nico Amador, reviewed by Claire Oleson

FLOWER WARS, poems by Nico Amador, reviewed by Claire Oleson
In Nico Amador’s Flower Wars, the lines of poetry are full of flesh and voice, both of which are sure of their uncertainty and masterfully show the reader that, if we would trust an author to write their own poem, we should absolutely trust someone with reordering, preserving, mangling, and ...
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LATE FAME, a novella by Arthur Schnitzler, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

LATE FAME, a novella by Arthur Schnitzler, reviewed by Robert Sorrell
Herr Eduard Saxberger lives in a pleasant apartment overlooking the Vienna Woods. Each night after spending the day in his civil service office, he eats at his usual restaurant where he interacts little with his companions beyond small talk and basic requests, and goes for a walk. His life is ...
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THE BURNING GIRL, a novel by Claire Messud, reviewed by Amanda Klute

THE BURNING GIRL, a novel by Claire Messud, reviewed by Amanda Klute
Hindsight never fails in providing a comprehensive scope of recently-felt chaos—this is the key narrative tool Claire Messud employs in her intimate coming-of-age novel, The Burning Girl. The Burning Girl offers deep insight into a seemingly minuscule and ordinary loss of two young Massachusetts girls, and quietly probes us to ...
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PLAINSPEAK, WY, poems by Joanna Doxey, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

PLAINSPEAK, WY, poems by Joanna Doxey, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck
Plainspeak, WY is impressive in its attention to detail and draws clear connections from matters of the earth to matters of the soul—and back again, repeatedly. The poet’s central obsession is depicted, in fact, somewhat subtly, on the cover of the book as a topographical map. Atop a cool, arctic ...
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THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES, a novel by Catherynne M. Valente, reviewed by Ansel Shipley

THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES, a novel by Catherynne M. Valente, reviewed by Ansel Shipley
Catherynne M. Valente’s most recent novel, The Refrigerator Monologues, exists in an odd space between novel and what could be called a pseudo-parable. Valente’s six protagonists and her interconnected narratives clearly parallel famous female comic book characters and their narrative arcs. Each of them, in fact, exhibits numerous traits that ...
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FINGERPRINTS OF PREVIOUS OWNERS, a novel by Rebecca Entel, reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier

FINGERPRINTS OF PREVIOUS OWNERS, a novel by Rebecca Entel, reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier
“The narrator of this book is a Caribbean woman. You may have noticed that the writer of this book is not,” Rebecca Entel notes in a preface to Fingerprints of Previous Owners, her novel set at a resort built on the nettle-choked ruins of a former slave plantation. Alluding to ...
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MIKHAIL AND MARGARITA, a novel by Julie Lekstrom Himes, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader 

MIKHAIL AND MARGARITA, a novel by Julie Lekstrom Himes, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader 
Julie Lekstrom Himes’ novel, Mikhail and Margarita, imagines the love affair that might have inspired The Master and Margarita. This is Himes’ first novel, following the publication of several short stories and essays. Himes is a physician in Massachusetts; interestingly, Bulgakov was also a physician. In an interview with the ...
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BARDO OR NOT BARDO, a novel by Antoine Volodine, reviewed by Amada Klute

BARDO OR NOT BARDO, a novel by Antoine Volodine, reviewed by Amada Klute
Take the existential universe of Jean-Paul Sartre and pull his pants down around his ankles—this is the paradoxical narrative met with in French comedic novelist Antoine Volodine’s Bardo or Not Bardo. Volodine’s blunt, absurdist style illustrates a marriage between the profound and the comedic, using humor as a weapon to ...
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EXPOSURE, short stories by Katy Resch George, reviewed by Rebecca Entel

EXPOSURE, short stories by Katy Resch George, reviewed by Rebecca Entel
The cover of Exposure, a short story collection by Katy Resch George, hints at the kind of stories you’ll find inside. The photograph of a topless woman on a beach with her arms tugged behind her is both intimate and distant, the woman exposed but also obscured by the translucent ...
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THE GERMAN GIRL, a novel by Armando Lucas Correa, reviewed by Kellie Carle

THE GERMAN GIRL, a novel by Armando Lucas Correa, reviewed by Kellie Carle
The German Girl permits readers to enter the minds of two 12-year-old girls as their lives are shaped by the tragedies of the SS St. Louis and 9/11. Correa expertly combines fact with fiction, as he constructs and then deconstructs the lives of two young girls. He also illustrates the ...
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TRYSTING, fiction by Emmanuelle Pagano, reviewed by Rachel R. Taube

TRYSTING, fiction by Emmanuelle Pagano, reviewed by Rachel R. Taube
Emmanuelle Pagano’s Trysting is an intimate romance among hundreds. This book of fictional fragments, each in the first person, features character after character—most of indeterminate gender, age, and history—falling in and out of love. The self-contained pieces range from one sentence meditations to several hundred word flash fictions. The shortest ...
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NAPOLEON’S LAST ISLAND, a novel by Thomas Keneally, reviewed by Nokware Knight

NAPOLEON’S LAST ISLAND, a novel by Thomas Keneally, reviewed by Nokware Knight
Based on the synopsis (conquered conqueror stuck on island hesitantly befriends by young native girl) and artwork (an ocean crashing into the bottom of seaside cliffs) on the book jacket, I expected in part to read the account of an aged, brooding, and isolated man pacing away his final days ...
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LILLI DE JONG, a novel by Janet Benton, reviewed by Joanne Green

LILLI DE JONG, a novel by Janet Benton, reviewed by Joanne Green
“When I write, I forget that I don’t belong to myself.” So observes Lilli de Jong, whose journal entries narrate Janet Benton’s impressive debut novel, set in the 1880s. Lilli is as spirited and determined as Jane Eyre, as sensible as Elinor Dashwood, and as downtrodden as Little Nell. Yet ...
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HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD, an anthology for young readers edited by Kelly Jensen, reviewed by Kristie Gadson

HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD, an anthology for young readers edited by Kelly Jensen, reviewed by Kristie Gadson
Feminism. It’s an ideology that has long been approached with trepidation, met with both skepticism and controversy. There have been countless articles, papers, films, and books exploring and defining the concept. However, Here We Are is more than a series of essays on feminism. It’s a collection of stories, blog ...
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ROMEO AND JULIET IN PALESTINE: TEACHING UNDER OCCUPATION, a memoir by Tom Sperlinger, reviewed by Beth Johnston

ROMEO AND JULIET IN PALESTINE: TEACHING UNDER OCCUPATION, a memoir by Tom Sperlinger, reviewed by Beth Johnston
Trust the Brits to find the humor in anything. Tom Sperlinger’s Romeo and Juliet in Palestine, a brief memoir of a semester the author spent as a visiting professor of English literature at Al Quds University in Abu Dis in the West Bank, deploys wry wit to combat the absurdities ...
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FAMILY LEXICON, a novel by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Jenny McPhee, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

FAMILY LEXICON, a novel by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Jenny McPhee, reviewed by Robert Sorrell
Now in a new translation by Jenny McPhee (and with a new English title), Family Lexicon is Natalia Ginzburg’s Strega Prize winning memoir/novel of life in Italy before, during, and after World War II, Lessico famigliare, first published in 1963. Ginzburg is known mainly in this country for being a ...
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DNA Hymn, poems by Annah Anti-Palindrome, reviewed by Johnny Payne

DNA Hymn, poems by Annah Anti-Palindrome, reviewed by Johnny Payne
The disturbing cover art of DNA Hymn features a woman whose bloody mouth discharges what appear to be balloons, intestines, or giant molecules. The image seems apt for a collection of poems that freely disgorges both intelligence and emotional wisdom. This book by the semi-pseudonymous Annah Anti-Palindrome waxes conceptual to ...
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TYPEWRITERS, BOMBS, JELLYFISH: ESSAYS by Tom McCarthy reviewed by William Morris

TYPEWRITERS, BOMBS, JELLYFISH: ESSAYS by Tom McCarthy reviewed by William Morris
TYPEWRITERS, BOMBS, JELLYFISH: ESSAYS by Tom McCarthy New York Review Books, 288 Pages reviewed by William Morris I am writing this on Monday May 8, 2017, the night before Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish: Essays, a collection of the work of British writer Tom McCarthy, will be published. I checked my ...
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ATLANTIC HOTEL, a novel by João Gilberto Noll, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

ATLANTIC HOTEL, a novel by João Gilberto Noll, reviewed by Robert Sorrell
“Love. Call me Love, the Word Incarnate.”
This is the closest that readers get to a name for the protagonist and narrator of João Gilberto Noll’s strange little book, Atlantic Hotel, recently translated into English by Adam Morris. The novel is set in Brazil in the 1980s, and over the ...
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THE LONG DRY, a novel by Cynan Jones, reviewed by Melanie Erspamer

THE LONG DRY, a novel by Cynan Jones, reviewed by Melanie Erspamer
Ultimately this is a beautiful little novel that leaves the reader reeling with the powerful emotions it manages to render in such a short space and with such sparse language. The simple storyline also gives leave for musings over possible symbolism. For example, what does the cow represent? Of course ...
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BETWEEN TWO SKIES, a young adult novel by Joanne O’Sullivan, reviewed by Brenda Rufener

BETWEEN TWO SKIES, a young adult novel by Joanne O’Sullivan, reviewed by Brenda Rufener
From the start, O’Sullivan pulls readers in with well-crafted characters and a beautifully painted setting. She drops the reader deep into the South with Hurricane Katrina looming offshore. The opening pages saturate us with the warmth, hospitality, and food that are so true to this geographical location. But we aren’t ...
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