Review by Booklist Review
Zambreno (Drifts, 2020) brings an erudite perspective to the challenges of motherhood during the pandemic. She documents multiple seasons of COVID-19, moving from inside a small Brooklyn home she shares with her husband and children to a nearby park where her oldest attends an outdoor preschool. While the toddlers make mud pies, Zambreno sits masked with other mothers, nursing infants who only see faces at home. She describes the chaos of endless laundry, interrupted sleep, overactive radiators, and eyes sore from online teaching. But the days are not without reward: "Sometimes," she admits, "it is cozy." Zambreno explores these extraordinary times in shifting personas, from diarist to literary critic to art historian, invoking the gardening journals of filmmaker Derek Jarman and the boxes of Joseph Cornell, whose project of "capturing experience before it fades" resonates deeply with her. In a bright flash of prose, she asks an illuminating question: Is there "a way to argue for art that is about taking care of others?" The Light Room provides a brilliant and affirmative answer.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this poignant memoir, novelist and critic Zambreno (How to Write as If Already Dead) reflects on caring for her two young children during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Organizing her narrative seasonally, Zambreno considers the trials and triumphs of raising a family amid that cultural tumult while staving off fears of additional crises, including ecological collapse. Her meditations traverse such topics as the demands of teaching at home, concern for her daughters' development, and her delight in sharing time with them outdoors. Throughout, Zambreno turns to influences including writer Natalia Ginzburg and visual artist Joseph Cornell for guidance and inspiration, pulling ideas for crafts and inspirations for journaling from their work. Though Zambreno's repeated complaints about nursing, sleep deprivation, and a problematic radiator may prove tedious even to empathetic readers, her frustration is relatable: "Sometimes mommies have tantrums, too," she admits. Her mastery of imagery--particularly as it pertains to light and nature--provides welcome moments of transcendence: "Sometimes the sky had clouds like putty, other times it was unimaginably clear, tinted blue, with an almost overbearing noon sun." It adds up to an arresting snapshot of caregiving in a time of uncertainty. Agent: Harriet Moore, David Higham Assoc. (July)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A deeply personal memoir of motherhood in a time of isolation. In her latest memoir, Zambreno thoughtfully drifts through her daily experiences parenting young children during the pandemic. The author opens at the end of summer 2020 in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where she brought her 4-year-old daughter and newborn, "another private pandemic baby who sees faces only at home," for their weekly forest school. When not at the park, she and her husband alternated parenting duties while teaching online courses from their cramped apartment. This book bears similarities to Yuko Tsushima's Territory of Light, a novel about "the vertiginousness of early motherhood, of exhaustion and despair and small joys," which Zambreno was reading in stolen moments during the pandemic. Zambreno, too, lays bare her feelings of near-constant fatigue, effectively contrasting darkness and light, frustration and pure happiness. At the same time, she was reading artist Joseph Cornell's diaries, strewn with scribblings that document the minutiae of his life. Like Cornell, Zambreno compiled a vast archive of notes, observations, and feelings "to catch something that's vital or sublime," which, for Cornell, provided what he called "a sense of illumination." Of her own fragments, Zambreno asks, "Is that what these paragraphs are? Are they lightboxes?" Other artists provided similar inspiration, among them writer Natalia Ginzburg, whose "Winter in the Abruzzi" further nudged Zambreno toward seeking the light in each moment. The seasons, cycles of new Covid-19 variants, finding a moment to commune with friends, the baby's teething eruptions--all became measurements of the day's passing. Zambreno's writing is lyrical throughout, and allusion, imagery, and color--the pink of her feverish child's cheeks, bright blue of the baby's eyes, and constant green of the linden--take on the shape of waves upon which her readers drift pleasantly through this meandering meditation. Through her unflinching chronicling of its externalities, Zambreno plumbs the poignant interior of her experiences. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.