I ordered this book based on a Sunday, Sacramento Bee review. It stated that this will be the book everyone will be talking about by the end of the year, in a good way. I do agree, everyone might be talking a out this book, however, not in a good way. This is one of the WORST books I have read in a long time. Infact, I only finished it because I had just paid $17 for it. What a waste of hard earned money. This book is so bad, I do not know how it got published. The story line was weak, and scattered . Very pedestrian writing, nothing suspenseful or beautiful about the writing. Although I am not a writer, I am a voracious reader, of all genres, and as such, recognize good writing when I read it. This felt more like reading a bad newspaper article. I love books, just not this one.
This is a note I sent recently to the author, the ultra-talented Idra Novey.
Years ago I interviewed Jackson Browne for a film I produced. The thing he said that has stuck with me is this: "When I release a song only half of it, if that, still belongs to me. The rest of it belongs to the listener and they interpret it and make use of it however they see fit."
I think this applies to books too, especially fiction. I see in reviews and interviews how your book reflects the moment we are in and I would agree with that. But I see this moment as a last gasp coming at the end of the entire post-war era. Decades and decades of corruption, yes, but I think there is something more fundamental going on.
I come out of the Ohio steel mills (I saw you mention Steubenville; been there many times). I was a minor union functionary and I was also on the board of the local Urban League. In both of those cases, I didn't see overt corruption, the buying of favors. What I did see was a very heavy-handed and rigidly enforced insistence on limits. Don't ask for anything except a penny more than what's offered. Defer your dreams. What you want is impossible so shut up. I knew many, many Victors, petty self-seekers who locked us all out of meaningful participation in anything.
The crumbs which bought our silence, our acquiescence, have been permanently withdrawn. Something new and scary is on the horizon but hidden by all the noise is something transformative in the other direction, possible now in part because the Victors of the world are losing their hold on us. That is what that last page said to me.
As for your writing per se (a false separation if there ever was one), I love the way you balance such a cast of characters and weave connections between them.
this is a really unusual story told in an unusual fashion, via unusual voices. While the location is never named, we can make intelligent guesses about the type of place it is, where it might be located--and the experiences ring true. I especially enjoyed how certain resolutions were left vague and yet, very clear.
I teach literature and have to voraciously read novels for a living. That said, I found Novey's _Those Who Knew_ by far THE BEST novel I read in 2018. Its exquisite style did not strike me as a huge surprise given Novey's solid background in poetry, translation, and, of course, given her success with her previous novel. Her background in poetry has allowed her, once more, to know the exact right word for each moment. She writes like a natural born story-teller and does not let you lay down her page-turner even for a single second. Just like her previous novel, _Ways to Disappear_ (which I have also taught and highly recommend), she has achieved a hard-to-mimic language, and has managed to merge, and to strike a rare balance between, the playful and the sublime. I am going to teach this book in one of my courses next year, and have already purchased a few copies as gifts for my friends. You should read this novel too, and give it as a gift to your best friends! It's worth your time! HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST-READ!
An amazingly timely book, given today’s political climate, gracefully moving between a privileged politico and those who may dare to question his actions. Beautifully written, a not so gentle reminder that silence always has consequences. The novel almost reads like a play, moving from scene to scene with intricate characters and laser focus.
One of my favorite lines from a character I loved, left a lasting impression that still haunts me days later: “There really was no predicting where, or when, the least lonely years of ones adult life might begin. “
I bought the book as it popped up as a new fiction book but did not get to it until a few days ago. But I am glad I did. I agree with other reviewers that it is quirky, in a good way. It even somewhat reminds me of a Start Trek episode.
I did not enjoy this book. I had to force myself to finish it. The plot was all over the place and the ending predictable. These characters just didn't hold my attention, and some of them served no purpose to the story.