The Publisher’s Weekly…

The Publisher's Weekly review is out, and it's frustrating. It opens with a mixed message that comes across as more negative than I'd like:

"Mohanraj's promising but uneven debut collection chronicles the lives of two linked Sri Lankan families over the course of 50 years."

And it closes with some similarly-toned lines:

"Mohanraj's writing is vibrant, but she occasionally retreads familiar territory of the immigrant experience (i.e., the struggle of losing one's language and the pressure to achieve in America). Also, the gems of the collection are offset by undeveloped, rushed stories -- in "Seven Cups of Water," a lesbian affair occurs abruptly and without context. Still, Mohanraj evokes a moving portrait of families searching for love and a place to call home."

Perhaps most irritating, in the summary sections in between, there's a total spoiler for "A Gentle Man," so that I really don't want to put the full review up. Argh. (Now that I look at it, the "Seven Cups" line is also a spoiler, but not quite as bad.) I suppose we could still use the last line in publicity materials, but I'm not sure it's worth it. Mostly it feels like they thought they had to balance every compliment with an equivalent criticism, which is certainly better than just full-on criticism, but still.

Anyway, you can find the full review on the PW website, though it looks like you have to register to get it. Kevin e-mailed it to me last night, but I'm not sure where he found a copy...

Also up is the SAWNET review, generally positive, though the reviewer did say, "At times, I felt that the tone was relentlessly suffocating, or constrained. Nearly every character is unhappy with his or her lot in life, in some respect his or her relationship with family, or the duties that he or she feels they must fulfill." Which is a fair enough assessment of the tone; I'd agree with constrained, at least, if not perhaps suffocating. Though I think there is a fair bit of pleasure and joy in the book, for balance...but maybe that's just my perception. You should never trust the author on such things. Especially when she's starting to feel defensive...

5 thoughts on “The Publisher’s Weekly…”

  1. Mixed reviews are rough. PW gave me a pretty mixed one for my collection, too. As writers, we tend to notice the bad more than the good in reviews. You should just extract the most praiseworthy quotes for blurbage, and try to forget about it otherwise. It’s just one reader’s opinion, after all (though that’s true even of rave reviews… perspective is important and hard to come by).

  2. What Tim said. It’s almost de rigeur to say that a first book is “uneven,” and reviews *will* reveal spoilers, no matter what you do. PW had good stuff to say; use that.

    (And for the record, “Seven Cups of Water” remains one of my favourite short stories.)

  3. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I have an odd reaction to “Seven Cups” — in some ways, it does feel slight to me, very straightforward and simple, not as dense as many of the others in the book. But then again, not everything has to be dense and multi-layered.

    I still remember how that story came to me — in a rush, seven straight hours of writing from beginning to end, in the Borders cafe in SLC, overlooking Temple Square. Some stories just come to you as gifts, and it feels ungrateful to offer criticism afterwards. 🙂

  4. Mary Anne, my copy of PW w/your review arrived a little while ago. If you’d like, I’d be happy to send it on to you via snail mail. I was at a conference a few weeks ago and listened to a panel presented by Daisy Maryles from PW and three review coordinators. To be noticed by PW is an achievement. (Even if they said so themselves.) Competition is intense and space is limited–you know the drill. I’ve been trashed by PW, praised, and shrugged over, and I’ve yet to see where any of it had the slightest influence on sales. Your cover will do more to help you on the shelves than a PW review, even a starred one. So don’t worry!

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Thanks, Barbara, but I don’t think I actually need to hoard a print copy of all my reviews, though there’s a certain part of me that would like to. 🙂 I appreciate the offer, and the encouragement!

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