Reviews for Cargill Falls

Cargill Falls is an immediate classic. At once essential and profound and hugely entertaining, the story of the two boys at the heart of this book, and the men they become, follows in the tradition of great coming of age stories like Stand by Me, and then twists and reinvents and does the tradition better, upending all that we know and expect. It’s rare to come across books like this. A writer hopes that once in his or her life he or she can write something so honest.”
—Charles Bock, Beautiful Children, Alice and Oliver

“In how it slows down the world, William Lychack’s Cargill Falls achieves something quite unexpected: this is a book that makes your heart drum loudly, that leaves you breathless under the tall canopy of a forest in Connecticut in the 1980s, that pulls you toward a single day’s burning, bright core. Not since William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow has a novel captured so wondrously the landscape of youth, regret, mystery, and violence, and done it with such tenderness, humor, and raw, wild energy.”
—Paul Yoon, Once the Shore, Snow Hunters, The Mountain

“William Lychack’s exquisite sensibility of language combines with delicate dramatic tension as he explores the possible meaninglessness of causality. What if one event is not related to another? This is the best novel about adolescent boys I can remember.”
—Blanche McCrary Boyd, Tomb of the Unknown Racist

“A double dimension dream of a book, Cargill Falls trapezes adroitly between the quotidian's ancient ache and the elusive, gleamingly provocative escutcheon of the ideal. It is moving, tender, and compelling from start to finish.”
—Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy

Reviews for The Wasp Eater

“William Lychack never overdoes the meaning or the melodrama here; instead, his aim is small, so small that only a writer with a measured and very precise command of language could attempt to achieve it . . . Lychack simply makes a reader feel the sadness inherent in this whole business of trying to connect with other human beings.”
—Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

“This spare, meticulous novel opens out like a poem, its deceptively casual images bearing an entire universe of weight.”
—Polly Shulman, The New York Times Book Review

“In The Wasp Eater, William Lychack's deeply moving first novel, we watch as a 10-year-old boy navigates the emotional minefield in which his family spends its last days together.”
USA Today

The Wasp Eater is an unpretentious, quiet-but-not-whispery book that engages the reader through the eyes of 10-year-old Daniel… The simplicity and clarity of Lychack’s writing are effective in their precise portrayal of a child’s mind and the powerlessness of childhood. The writing is so vivid that the reader, stuck in Daniel’s thoughts, can sometimes feel as helpless and clueless as the boy.”
People Magazine

“This is how it feels to be a son whose parents are unstable yet almost within reach, if only he can love them enough.”
The San Francisco Chronicle

The Wasp Eater sounds more surreal than it is. At heart, it's a graceful and all-too-brief exploration of a family in crisis, of an uneasy father-son alliance and of a boy who finds himself on the cusp of adolescence with much more to digest than just an insect and a diamond ring.”
The Los Angeles Times

“Vividly rendered…”
The Washington Post

“An expedition limned with menace...”
Publishers’ Weekly

“A heart-stopping first novel... Anna is clear: Her 20 year-old-marriage to Bob is over... The sudden rupture leaves their only child, ten-year old Daniel, feeling miserably torn… It’s tempting to call this a small gem, except there is nothing small about a work that glows with such tenderness for its three leads.”
Kirkus (Starred Review)

“Just when the dysfunctional family drama seems entirely wrung out, along comes a book so freshly original that it seems to have invented the genre. What’s so remarkable here is the understatedness, the quietly intense writing carefully containing more emotion than many louder novels have to show. Original, too, is the impulse to heal rather than to break away—however mixed the outcome... The book itself is bitter-sweet, small-scale yet deeply affecting-not a symphony but rather a Beethoven quartet. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal (Starred Review)

“In devastating detail, the novel captures everything from the boy's silences to his uncalibrated destructive outbursts. At one point, Lychack describes Daniel feeling "as if he'd swallowed a bit of metal - a washer or a coin and someone was bringing it back up along his spine with a magnet." Readers might experience something similar witnessing this family's disintegration.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Sweet and poignant... The adult Daniel surely makes peace with his parents' fissure, but The Wasp Eater isn't about retrospective analysis and wisdom from experience. It's about being in the moment itself. With his sensory memories of childhood, Lychack drops us in Daniel's moment and lets us feel briefly like a lost and heartbroken little boy.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Lychack finds new ways to describe feelings too achingly familiar to anyone whose parents ever delivered similar news... Although Lychack enters the perspective of all three family members, he lets Daniel's story fill most of the pages... This simple story remains painful: parents leave, a child is suspended between them, and no one will ever win, not even if you wait decades to tally up the final score.”
The San Diego Union Tribune

“How much betrayal is too much to bear? William Lychack, in his debut novel, The Wasp Eater, explores this question through the eyes of a young boy whose family is imploding … The Wasp Eater moves back and forth through generations... and in and out of an almost dreamy state of mind. It lays bare the extraordinary degrees of emotion that can color the most ordinary of lives. Ultimately, it makes for an exquisite, yet troubling book... beautifully and skillfully rendered.”
The Birmingham News

“More than a simple narrative on the breakdown of the family, The Wasp Eater is a powerful treatise on the devastation wrought when a person refuses to forgive, the bond that ties sons to fathers, and the life that sometimes comes through death.”

“Beautifully understated, delicately crafted...”

“This is not a novel about forgiveness or of boyhood innocence lost. There is no satisfying sense of justice served. However, the narrator's acute sensitivity towards place makes this a novel worth reading, if solely for the experience of words beautifully woven together.”

“This story, told with old-school lyricism, overflows with emotional tension.”

The Wasp Eater has an uncanny precision about love and forgiveness. It is one of the best narratives I have ever read about those who are unforgiven, and the effect of this refusal on a child.”
—Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love, Burning Down the House

The Wasp Eater is superb. Such perfection of tone, such clarity of emotion, such spare and beautiful language.”
—Andrea Barrett, Ship Fever

“William Lychack has given us a fierce elegy on the romance of family life, clear-eyed and immediate in its lyric brevity.”
—Patricia Hampl, The Florist’s Daughter

“Lychack has the writer’s gift for vivifying the smallest moments and biggest emotions of our lives so they become not only lyrical, but also understood.”
—Michael Paterniti, Driving Mister Albert 

“In language that is both lucid and haunting—literally haunting, for it comes back again and again at unexpected moments, hovering, a phrase repeated here, a variation recalling it later—William Lychack brings a remarkably large cast of characters to life. The short sentences invert the idea of minimalism; they work, rather, as melodic units, building the larger movement of this novel.”
—Kelly Cherry, A Kind of Dream

“Lyric language… Precise imagery… I loved this…”
—Bret Lott, Jewel

Reviews for The Architect of Flowers

“Oh, what beautiful stories. They take me back to my childhood… the warmth and realistic children are wonderful. I well recall The Wasp Eater. Please keep writing!”
—Clive Cussler, The Rising Sea, Raise the Titanic!

“These stories kick ass. Beautifully done. I was delighted and intrigued.”
—George Saunders, Tenth of December, Lincoln in the Bardo

The Architect of Flowers is a stunning collection. Each story is like a brilliant dream, evanescent, yet managing to linger in all the senses long after the last page has been turned. It is a poetry of narrative rarely ever found in fiction.”
—Mary McGarry Morris, The Last Secret, Songs in Ordinary Time

“Derek Walcott says he writes verse in the hope of writing poetry. Something similar might be said about the fiction in William Lychack's, The Architect of Flowers. The prose rises to a level of intense lyricism that distinguishes this lovely, artful collection.”
—Stuart Dybek, I Sailed with Magellan, The Coast of Chicago

“William Lychack moves with equal ease between fabulism and realism as he conjures up his alluring characters, their troubles and delights. The resulting stories are precise, exhilarating, sometimes wonderfully funny and always beautiful.”
—Margot Livesey, Eva Moves the Furniture, House on Fortune Street

“You keep reading these stories waiting for a stable place for these human beings to inhabit. But they can’t be safely anywhere except in fables, where their meaning has already been determined. I loved that effect, but despite all the beauties of style, it’s not especially comforting and isn’t meant to be. This book is an amazing accomplishment, very complex and exceptionally beautiful, but also unnerving, like a beautiful painting by Goya that can still give you the willies.”
—Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love, There’s Something I Want You to Do

“The stories in William Lychack’s startling collection, The Architect of Flowers, are rife with quiet epiphanies and devastating betrayals. In heart-rending, gorgeous prose, each mines the grace and brutality of everyday life and leaves the reader slightly rearranged, and better for it. Lychack is a truly original writer.”
—Kate Walbert, Our Kind, The Gardens of Kyoto

“Deceptively simple stories about 'ordinary' working class characters. Lychack brings them to life with tiny insights and dazzling images he seems to exhale into every line.”
—Dave Cullen, Columbine

“The small failings between parents and children, the long-held secrets in married lives, the darkening of old age interrupted unexpected flashes of hope: with the hand of a master, William Lychack searches out the ignored moments of ordinary life and burnishes them into treasures. This collection is a treasury. I loved it.”
—Vestal McIntyre, Lake Overdrive

“Long after you've finished reading The Architect of Flowers and set it aside to move on to other books, the cadence of William Lychack’s prose will continue to click like a metronome in your head. You may forget the plots of these stories (an old woman trains a crow to steal for her, a boy confronts memories of his father at his funeral), you may forget some of the characters (a ghost-writer, a pregnant woman raising chickens, a mother and her gun-toting son), but I’m willing to bet you’ll have a hard time shaking loose Lychack’s distinct voice… I can think of no better way to summarize The Architect of Flowers than this description from the author himself: ‘all the characters in this collection yearn to somehow re-enchant the world, to turn the ordinary and profane into the sacred and beautiful again, to make beauty serve as an antidote to grief.’”
—David Abrams, Fobbit, Brave Deeds

“Skillfully written and absorbing, these stories frequently defy description and rarely proceed smoothly from point A to point B.”
Library Journal

“The raw, emotional narrative voice that runs throughout William Lychack’s book of short stories keeps readers on edge. While there are a myriad of different perspectives—a hybridizer and his paranoid wife, a police officer, a ghostwriter, a school teacher with mythic origins—the narrative voice feels continuous. An almost palpable discontent unites all the characters and is the beating heart of their stories. Lychack’s collection of stories drives readers with its discontent and leaves them, while a bit unsettled, with a gut-wrenching exploration of longing.”
The Brooklyn Rail

“‘Still with us?’ asks the narrator of “Stolpestad,” the first story in William Lychack’s collection The Architect of Flowers. That the question comes only two paragraphs into the book is instructive: Lychack has crafted a sequence of stories concerned largely with momentum (both narrative and personal), and many of his characters find themselves unable to keep up.”

“Lychack evokes a world that is mysterious, sometimes wonderful, and sometimes downright frightening.The Architect of Flowers is consistently rewarding for its restless search for possibility, for the author’s willingness to take risks and jettison the illusion of narrative authority without reducing his stories to postmodern smarty-games. He suggests that how we construct what is real is provisional and a matter of groping, but it is a necessary struggle for the preservation of anything worthwhile. This book is an artful incarnation of that sentiment. Lychack doesn’t settle for literary bon-bons. His well-crafted stories make a rich and satisfying meal.”
The New York Journal