Elevate Difference

Reviews of Algonquin Books

Paris Was Ours

“Paris lives in its details,” observes one contributor to this collection of essays. But equally true is the idea of Paris that thrives through clichés. You’ll find spare references to the Eiffel Tower, berets, cheese, and wine in Paris Was Ours, although the apparently ineluctable forms of French snobbery are discussed. What this anthology delivers instead are a wide breadth of creative and nuanced meditations on the culture, history, and inhabitants of the City of Light, confirming that all our romantic associations with Paris, despite the city’s faults, are quite justified.

Pictures of You

Reading Pictures of You is like having encounters with people you randomly meet on the street, at the beach, on in a park.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

Heidi W. Durrow’s novel swirls out from and obsessively around the moment when a mother and her three children fall from the rooftop of a Chicago building. The narration crystalizes around this striking event, with multiple narrators adding their points of view to the interpretation of the mystery surrounding the plunge. Rachel, the sole survivor, struggles to adjust to the losses and changed that characterize her life after the fall.

Going Away Shoes

The protagonists of Jill McCorkle’s exciting collection of stories, Going Away Shoes, are middle-aged heterosexuals deep in the doldrums of life’s disappointments. Whether because of a stalled career, a divorce, a death, or simply the exhaustion born of juggling family, work and social obligations, these are women who’ve been battered by everyday tragedies and everyday pressures.

The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial

No regular news consumer could avoid being informed of the failings of the educational system in the U.S. Every medium, new and old, is filled with the details of this country’s abysmal international rankings, the breakdown of school discipline, the costs of teaching to the test, the soaring dropout rate and the dearth of funding that leads school systems to abandon arts programs and other educational necessities. What is often left unexamined is one of the primary causes of many of these problems: de facto segregation by race and class.

A Reliable Wife

A Reliable Wife begins with anticipation. First, there’s the anticipation of Ralph Truitt, the businessman who owns all the large assets of the town, Truitt, which is named for his family. Ralph Truitt waits on the train platform for a train which is late arriving.


Mudbound, the first novel by Hillary Jordan, is all about tension. Race, family, marriage, class, identity are all buzzing, pressing in the narrative, and all of them feed into the greatest tension of all: the classic survival story of man versus nature. The first few pages describe two brothers scrambling to dig a makeshift grave ahead of an impending storm. This scene sets the tone and becomes, in many ways, a vivid metaphor for the entire narrative.

The Music Teacher

The Music Teacher is a story of failure. It is the story of what could have been, but wasn’t—because of neglect, because of abuse, or for the simple reason that not everyone succeeds. Most people fail. Protagonist Pearl Swain is one of these failures. Swain was a gifted violinist, but her father hated (and feared) her passion for music so strongly that he burned her violin in a backyard fire.

Secret Son

Having read Laila Lalami’s short fiction collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, I was thrilled to find out she was working on her first novel, Secret Son.

Doctor Olaf Van Schuler’s Brain

A thriller that spans five centuries, Doctor Olaf Van Schuler’s Brain is entertaining and thought provoking. Thirteen generations of eccentric New York City doctors navigate genius, madness and morality. This book is eerie, smart, unique, and very delicately crafted, telling many stories in every layer of time. The Van Schulers and Steenwycks are a family of eccentric, genius, medical people, mostly doctors, some more on the fringe than others, some mad.

Between Here and April

Deborah Copaken Kogan’s novel Between Here and April begins with Elizabeth Burns, a modern New York journalist and mother of two young girls, recalling her first-grade friend April Cassidy’s sudden disappearance.