Reviews

“…In the delicious tradition of Jane Austen, Callahan deftly choreographs an elaborate mating dance between two resistant, feisty, blinded protagonists who have to figure out how to save themselves before they can save each other. The sexual electricity between April and Oliver sets off sparks even as they spar with the intensity of Hepburn and Tracy…Callahan’s prose – and especially her dialogue – is admirably taut…The result is a moving story and an impressive debut.”

Heller McAlpinThe Boston Globe9-19-09

“…An unhinged first-love novel…Smoldering sexual attraction,terrible timing, childhood friends – one reckless and wild, the other proper and conventional. The perfect stuff for a weekend of rather gloomy weather. The characters in this debut novel are rendered carefully, and the story barrels along with the velocity of slightly unhinged first love. The editor of this book gave it to me a few months ago and it was a delightful discovery.”

Elizabeth Taylor, Literary EditorThe Chicago Tribune9-14-09

“…Callahan has a gift for maintaing her focus and the book’s absolute presence with unity that is bot direct and melodic…her imperceptible touch is what ultimately allows her characters to acto out the story, seemingly without direction or manipulation. In doing so, she gives us a memorable reading experience that evokes true classic romance..”

Adera Causeyfor The Chattanooga Free Press8-16-09

“…a sensitive and emotional account of two people grappling with the complicated force of mutual attraction when it strikes the right people at the wrong time.”

The Washington Post7-1-09

In this memorable debut, Callahan offers a uniquely funereal love story that focuses on a stagnant friendship-turned-untenable romance between unlikely life-long friends. To deal with the death of her immediate family, as well as the scars of childhood abuse, April assumes the role of the jaded wild child; Oliver, her once-inseparable childhood companion, has become her polar opposite, an engaged law student poised for success. Estranged during Oliver’s college years, the two reconnect with troubling results. Callahan’s descriptions are vivid, and often paired with charming flashbacks to more innocent times, providing stark contrast to the tumultuous course of April’s and Oliver’s young-adult lives. Callahan’s narrative takes some supporting-character detours from the principles’ love-hate relationship, including an abusive boyfriend; a manipulative and dangerous family friend; and April’s strong-but-slipping Nana. Callahan’s poetic style and grasp of emotion gives proper weight to April’s loss and Oliver’s secrets, and is sure to engage, sadden, and enthrall readers, especially in a bittersweet, somewhat surprising finale.

Publisher’s Weekly6-15-09

Tess Callahan explores themes of love, loss and the scars life leaves on us in her painfully poignant novel “April & Oliver.”
Though they haven’t seen each other in years, Oliver comes to April’s rescue after the sudden death of her brother, Buddy, in a car accident.
The three grew up together, with April and Oliver finding solace in each other as they kept young Buddy entertained.
Their relationship might not ever have been truly defined in their youth, but powerful memories of the events that shaped them into who they are now bond them in an unbreakable way. Each understands how the pieces of their pasts fit together, and when they are reunited, tensions build as they juggle a jumble of emotions.
While April tries to stay submerged in her grief, surfacing only to punish herself with an abusive boyfriend, Oliver floats along his river of predictable responsibility. He always has done what’s expected of him, going to law school and getting engaged to a nice young woman. But as he tries to be a good friend to April, the secrets he has unwittingly kept from his fiancee, and in some part himself, begin to put a strain on his relationship.
“April & Oliver” is a lovely story. The characters are heart-rendingly believable as the pair struggle to find the seeds of who they once were and where exactly they went off the tracks. It’s a tale of first love and the enormous depth of feeling left for someone who knows exactly from where each of your scars comes.

Lindsey Losnedahlfor Las Vegas Review-Journal6-15-09

Troubled April and cautious Oliver, former childhood friends, find themselves reconnecting after the sudden, tragic death of April’s teenage brother, Buddy. April, blaming herself for Buddy’s death, becomes surrounded by Oliver’s family as they lend comfort and support. Oliver, who previously dreamed of a music career, is now a law student engaged to be married and seems the polar opposite of reckless April. They were inseparable as children, always compelled to look after Buddy and each other, and now, as they battle their mutual attraction, life appears quite complicated and confusing. April is aware that she should avoid the many rough, abusive men she allows in her life; Oliver acknowledges that a wonderful future awaits him. The opening chapters of this emotional whirlpool of a debut novel are gripping, owing to Callahan’s sharp, savvy storytelling. Callahan spins a dark, gritty tale of love, yearning, and choices while presenting engaging characters and substantial action that packs more than a few punches. Wise beyond words.

Andrea Tarr for The Library Journal4-15-09

I’m sorry to report that since April and Oliver is Tess Callahan’s debut as a novelist, an immediate regret awaits all readers on the last page of this enormously sagacious and compelling book, to wit: that it’s done, finished, consumed; that there are as yet no other Callahan novels to devour, and heaven only knows how long we must wait for the author’s next work to reach our greedy hands. The urgency of Callahan’s narrative and its volatile juxtapositions–innocent passion and dark sexuality; duty and desire; first love and ruined love–make it impossible not to care deeply for these characters and their thwarted yearning and their heart-wrenching stories.

Bob Shacochis National Book Award-winningauthor of Easy in the Islands

Grappling fates are the DNA of suspense, and Tess Callahan braids loss, longing, romance and violence into a tense, gratifying narrative. The characters in April and Oliver feel inexorable–either destined or doomed to be together. The need to discover which–and how–keeps the reader turning pages.

Sven Birkerts Author of Reading Life: Books for the AgesNY Times reviewer

Tess Callahan is an extraordinarily talented writer- a first rate storyteller with a compelling and graceful style. April and Oliver is a stunning novel that explores the multilayered complexities of love and loss, the kind of novel you pick up to read and do not put down until the last page. An excellent novel by a gifted writer.

Jill McCorkle Author of Creatures of HabitFive time NY Times Notable Book author

Selected by Publisher’s Weekly for their First Edition Debut Novelist Feature, January 26, 2009

Selected by USA Today for their summer books round-up, in print and online on May 7, 2009

Selected by Woodbury Magazine for their summer 2009 issue

Selected by Real Simple Magazine for their June 2009 Summer Reads issue

Selected by Elle Canada for their June 2009 Issue

Selected by Newtonville Books for their June 2009 First Editions Club

Chosen by Metro NY as the #1 Beach Read this summer

Author selected by Powells.com for their original essays series, June 2009

Author selected by thebestamericanpoetry.typepad.com as guest blogger, June 28- July 4, 2009