I've been named the recipient of the 2017 Maplewood Literary Award, a prize given as part of the annual Ideas Festival taking place each March and April in Maplewood, NJ. Former recipients of the prize include Paul Auster and Dan Barry. As a long-time resident of the community and an enthusiastic user of the Maplewood Memorial Library, which sponsors the festival, I am especially delighted.
I seem to be getting some special love from the Huffington Post lately. First I was included in this list of "required reading": Colson Whitehead! Chang-Rae Lee! Eileen Myles! Karen Russell! Then they published their "Ultimate Feminist Back-to-School Reading List" and I am in that too: Joan Didion! Elena Ferrante! Helen Oyeyemi! Lynda Barry!
Better late than never! "Beautiful and brutal, Pamela Erens’s (The Virgins) third novel is a revelatory meditation on relationships – between adults, lovers, friends, parents, and children of all ages. . . . Verdict: A quick, intense, and viscerally electrifying story . . . libraries should order immediately."
Could I be more pleased? From the Sunday Herald (Scotland): "This is an immensely powerful, cannot-look-away novel of heart and bone and muscle and blood. The war novel has a rival, and it is breathtaking."
A thoughtful and thorough review, with a nice conclusion: "Eleven Hours shows childbirth without distaste or romance, as a uniquely agonizing and dangerous event that so often leads, somehow, to joy."
In her review, Maureen Corrigan of Fresh Air calls Eleven Hours "a novel about the ultimate female adventure . . . fierce and vivid in its depiction of the exhaustion of the spirit and the rending of the flesh during childbirth . . . tough and emotionally authentic."
In the Wall Street Journal, Sam Sacks calls Eleven Hours "exhilarating." He adds: "in the heart-in-throat climax, Ms. Erens maintains her poise and precision. The writing is candid without being sensational, detailed without being clinical. This admirable novel reminds us that even when childbirth is overseen by caring professionals in state-of-the-art facilities, it still arrives on waves of blood." (Most of this review is behind a paywall for non-subscribers.)
Completely jazzed about this review in the Boston Globe. "Pamela Erens achieves the extraordinary in her third novel, `Eleven Hours': a visceral story about an intensely painful experience that manages to be an intense pleasure to read."
"Erens’ short novel is beautiful, contained, and remarkable. That a novel about the universal, essential, yet ordinary and often addressed process of bringing about new life could be so fresh is something readers can get lost considering." (May 1 issue)
I can't really ask for better than this: "Written with incredible clarity, this third novel from Erens (The Virgins) is a wonder, shifting between two protagonists with ease to tell a deeply personal narrative of childbirth, complete with tension, horror, and deep, mature emotion. This novel does not sentimentalize the delivery of a child but rather examines the surprise—mental and physical—that accompanies it. Labor stories are as old as time, but Erens's novel feels incredibly fresh and vivid. An outstanding accomplishment."
Kirkus starred reviews are very precious in this business, and I've never received one before. Now I have, for Eleven Hours. The entire review made me very happy because it suggested that the reviewer read the novel in very much the spirit in which I wrote it (this is far from always the case, even in reviews full of praise). The review is too long to reproduce here in full, but I'll quote from the very end: ". . . by combining portraits of a woman at the beginning of her pregnancy and a woman on the brink of motherhood, Erens shows that there is not one moment between these two experiences without peril. Powerful—aesthetically and viscerally."
This time Eleven Hours makes Flavorwire's list of books they're waiting to see in 2016--along with works by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Alexander Chee, Dana Spiotta, Roxane Gay, Louise Erdrich, and Julian Barnes . . . whew!
Like many other passionate readers, I swear by The Millions' twice-yearly "Most Anticipated" list of upcoming book publications. So I'm thrilled that Eleven Hours has been included in the list for the first half of 2016. There are so many other writers here whose work I admire that I can't begin to tag them. Suffice it to say I am flattered. Thanks for making my new year, The Millions.