Reviews

Reviews of Long Division

“The three generations of women in this book are connected by shared trauma and also by Fraser’s insightful storytelling. The book moves elegantly between narrators and through time, and addresses the far-reaching consequences of alcoholism and childhood abuse with intensity, balanced by a gentle touch for the subtleties of family dynamics.”

Tim Boomer, New York Times Modern Love column and podcast contributor

“Long Division is as much about the treacherous but essential landscape of love as it is about the narrative webs we often spin to survive and then must find a way to dismantle.”

Tehila Lieberman, winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for short fiction and author of Venus in the Afternoon

“Long Division is a touching, subtly poignant, and unflinching take on the ties that bind mothers and daughters… and often unmake them.”

Nicole Galland, author of On The Same Page

From Wellfleet Marketplace Booksellers

My brother, a psychologist who specialized in family therapy, used to talk about the unintentional legacy of family patterns, how the sins of the parents are not just visited on subsequent generations, they’re often repeated by them.  I think Mike would have really appreciated this new novel by Sara Fraser for that reason as well as others. Sara is an immensely talented writer whose short stories I’ve enjoyed over the years. This is her debut novel and I like that so many publishers these days are introducing new writers with paperback originals, making it more affordable to sample an unknown voice. Partially set on the Cape, Long Divisioncenters on three generations of women.  Leigh Fortune has just learned that her estranged mother, whom she hasn’t seen or heard from in years has died. She’s also dealing with an aging grandmother who cared for Leigh after her own mother abandoned her and is now a far from content resident of Walnut Acres Municipal Nursing Home. Leigh is also supposed to be getting married. To Mark, who she describes as a Good Man.    “And I do love him. He’s good and stable and reliable. He could be better than that or worse. Or maybe he’s both. He’s my dream man, the perfect compliment, and he’s also the dark heavy blanket that’s going to smother me if I let him.”    So Leigh is about to make a huge life commitment, something that has never worked out very well for her mother or her grandmother. Can it work for her? I loved this insightful, moving, brilliant novel, reminiscent of Meg Wolitzer’s novels. 

Stephen Russell, Wellfleet Marketplace Booksellers

From Kirkus

A troubled woman makes peace with her family in this well-written and introspective novel.

From IndieReader:

LONG DIVISION is a multi-generational tale of dysfunction and hope echoing from grandmother, to mother, to daughter….The storytelling is incredibly human and honest, exploring how a person can be blinded by their own intentions….[it] is a novel whose fluid narration and rich imagery carries a story that is deeply personal to its characters but universal in its themes.

From J.L. Cole Books

Three women, three generations, intertwined together by the choices they made.

Long Division by Sara B. Fraser was a delightful, character-driven read…. It’s a story about family, heartbreak and finding peace amongst life’s broken pieces. The ending is left a little bit open, which I thought fitting for this kind of novel. It’s like they are real people and their story is still being written, not just tied up neatly with a bow.

From New England Book Critic:

Long Division is a powerful story about three generations of women who share the same bloodline and their inability to deal with their past, has inadvertently affected one another.

From Authors Reading:

Long Division is narrated in beautifully told interweaving storylines, where the past and present come together in a nuanced, heartfelt drama about everyday people living everyday lives.

From Sublime Book Review:

An exceptionally well-written novel, giving the reader an insight into the lives of the characters with a style and grace that would be the envy of many writers.

From Onlinebookclub.org:

Long Division deals head-on with issues like abuse, alcoholism, and statutory rape. However, at its very core, this is a book about human understanding. It’s a book about recognizing that human beings, even those who are parents, are flawed individuals who don’t always make the right choices. 

Reviews of Just River

From Kirkus:

Diverse residents of a small industrial city seek happiness against the odds in a madcap novel about class and love.

Set in the last days of the 20th century in a crumbling, but still grittily colorful, industrial city in upstate New York, the story opens at “The End”—a scene of destruction that unravels in vignettes and still shots: a car upside down in a river; a diary floating away, its sentences dissolving in the water; a man with a gunshot wound flailing in the rapids. The narrative then rewinds to “The Beginning,” in a courtroom where 21-year-old Garnet Harlow, author of the aforementioned diary, is on trial for pushing an armoire over on her boyfriend, Ethan Thaxter, owner of the drowned car. Certain that the jury will take Ethan’s pattern of abusive behavior into account, Garnet is stunned to find herself convicted of assault and sentenced to two years in prison. Equally shocked are her mother, Carol, a cashier at the local community college cafeteria, and her best friend, Sam, a gay man navigating the dangers of toxic masculinity with matter-of-fact courage. Carol and Sam, both in their 40s, bolster each other against hopelessness in their furtive searches for romance. They both also offer Garnet what support they can as she finds herself facing bullying by fellow inmates and the continued manipulations of Ethan, whose wealthy background makes her a target in prison. Fraser’s narrative is written with notable humor and compassion, combining elements of screwball comedy with savvy class analysis. It’s clearly shown that the inequity between the wealthy and the working class is what lands Garnet behind bars; it’s a system in which “there’s only justice for the people who can pay for it.” The plot effectively shows the dangers caused by a lack of options for those who aren’t born to privilege. The work’s outlook is far from hopeless, however, and the indomitable central characters find that it’s their vulnerability, when shared, that gives them the strength they need to prevail. A shrewd and vibrant story of the resilience of ordinary people.

From IndieReader:

Carol lives in a small rundown town in upstate New York. She’s caught in the doldrums of a dead end job at a college cafeteria and her best friend and neighbor Sam is trying to stay sober and stay in work. Carol’s daughter Garnet is locked up in prison after being found guilty of assault after fighting back against her abusive partner Ethan. When Garnet starts getting bullied by fellow inmates, Carol and Sam hatch a plan to keep her safe and stop her running straight back into Ethan’s arms just as soon as she gets out.

Set in the Clinton era, JUST RIVER paints a precise and sometimes bleak view of the consequences on a community when industry shuts up shop and a town slowly sinks into dereliction. Author Sara B. Fraser builds her fictitious town of Wattsville with great skill and populates it with carefully drawn characters who still cling to their hopes and dreams by the very tips of their fingers. It is a book of planning and failing, of expectations dashed by bitter reality, of trying to make the best out of the hand you are dealt. Less skilled authors than Fraser may have let the setting and themes, of the repercussions of domestic abuse and substance misuse, sink into a quagmire of joyless social realism but in JUST RIVER the characters never let their circumstances crush their spirit. They make mistakes. They have lucky breaks. They fall down. They get back up. They remain exuberantly human. The characters are messy and contradictory and unpredictable and completely believable. The frustrated loneliness of Carol. Sam’s pride in representing his true self as “a gay man who feels like a woman and dresses like a woman.” Garnet’s conflict and confusion in not knowing how to be loved. Their stories, and that of a myriad of equally vibrant characters, are told in short chapters from different perspectives. It’s a kaleidoscopic view which slowly pulls focus, narrowing and crystallizing as the plot strands come together. And even in the depths of despair there are moments of levity. An accidental poisoning. A bungled attempt to score drugs. The non-appearance of Britney Spears at a karaoke night.

Sara B. Fraser’s prose is fluid, stylish and filled with exquisite turns of phrase. This may be only her second novel but she writes with immense confidence and a rare compassion for everyday people. There is truth and beauty in the pages of JUST RIVER and it deserves a wide readership.

~Kent Lane for IndieReader