McBride is telling a theoretically simple story — “A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing” follows the growth of a young woman whose family life centers around her ill older brother. In her hands, it becomes not only a beautiful example of the flexibility of prose, but a story with layer upon layer of emotional depth and complexity. The writing itself is fragmented and circuitous, so much so that the sentences themselves aren’t really sentences. The fragments are as sharp and jagged as the narrator’s struggles with family, with abuse, with religion, with identity, and with finding personal freedom. A difficult read, but an essential one.
— Jenn Northington, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbr
Set in World War II France and Germany, “All the Light We Cannot See” is long, rich, and populated by a range of imperfect characters — some who try to transcend that imperfection, others who cannot see it. Doerr brings this wide assembly of individuals to life, moving among them, slowly drawing them nearer one another, fleshing each of them out so that even those we might expect to be stereotypes are much more. I was so amazed at the way that the author was able to heighten all my senses in a way that I felt like I knew what it was like to be blind. In most well-written books, you get of a sense of what the characters look like and follow them throughout the story, almost as if you are on a voyage. But with this novel, I could imagine what it was like to be in Marie-Laure’s shoes.
— Christine Freglette, The BookMark Shoppe [8415 Third Ave. between 84th and 85th streets in Bay Ridge, (718) 833–5115, www.bookma
Jess Row’s “Your Face in Mine” is easily one of the most interesting and thought-provoking books I’ve read this year. Nearly two decades after their high school graduation, Kelly runs into his old classmate, Martin, who immediately discloses to Kelly that he has undergone racial reassignment surgery to become a black male — a secret he’s held from absolutely everyone until now. The mesmerizing novel asks the question: what if you felt, with your entire being, like you were into the wrong race? It is an interesting and difficult question to ask — fraught with anger and compassion and potentially serious consequences — but what Row does so brilliantly in this thought experiment is ask these interesting and difficult questions about race and identity without presuming to know any of the answers. Love this book or hate this book, it will no doubt make you think and I, for one, can’t stop thinking about this one.
— Emily Russo Murtagh, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246–0200, www.greenl