Reviews for Exley
Remarkable … In the hands of a less talented writer, the novel’s layers, twists and identity puzzles could strain the belief of even the most credulous reader; but Clarke’s narrative assurance and unfailingly realistic characters allow him to pull off the literary equivalent of a half-court shot. This would have been a hard novel to write even adequately, but Clarke’s performance here is extraordinary; it’s far and away the best work of his career.
New York Times
Clarke has a distinctively winning style. He imagines characters so careful in their reasoning that they are deeply, maddeningly unreasonable but also tenderly hapless at the same time. Mr. Clarke is able to make their isolation both heart-rending and comically absurd.
Frederick Exley’s classic 1968 account of his epic alcoholism, A Fan’s Notes, bears the oxymoronic subtitle “A Fictional Memoir.” It is the space between those words, between real and fabricated memory, that Clarke examines. . . . With humor as black as Exley’s liver, Clarke picks apart the fictions we tell one another—and those we tell ourselves.
Daily Beast’s Top Ten Novel of the Fall
Oddly brilliant … The luminously engaging plot reveals the deceptions we cling to in order to survive … Clarke’s breathtaking creativity gives unexpected power to his quirky, touching story.
Clarke pulls off a nice trick here, playing postmodern games while delivering a cleverly plotted story complete with a surprise twist embedded in Miller’s partial understanding of his parents’ tension-riddled relationship.
In his new novel Exley, Brock Clarke, who lives in Portland, Maine, has created a young narrator as winning and wise as Christopher Boone in Mark Haddon’s 2003 bestseller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
San Francisco Chronicle
It’s the flashes of insight into what it’s like to fiercely love a-far-from-perfect father and his sad-sack hero despite their flaws that will move you.
Time Out New York (Five Star Review!)
Clarke expertly evokes other authors who deal with children’s quests in the face of tragedy and mental illness, from J.D. Salinger to Jonathan Safran Foer. In the end, however, the novel comes off as its own original foray into the land of floating realities, and explains why, though so many of us claim to want the truth, in the end we are almost always content to believe in a well-reasoned lie.
At the heart of Exley is a question many of us face on an almost daily basis: Where, exactly, is the line separating fiction from reality, and which side would you live on if you had the choice? … Clarke elegantly launches mystery after mystery, as young Miller scours Watertown for clues while having run-ins with one Exley doppelgänger after another … An emotional and thought provoking read about what it means to live in a culture where so much of our reality is comprised of debilitating news.
“In Exley, Brock Clarke’s follow-up to the excellent An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, hidden identities and secret affairs bubble up when a young boy investigates why his father left the family. We laughed. We cried. We wanted to strangle the meddling therapist.
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Another literary high-wire performance by a novelist who is establishing himself as a unique voice in contemporary fiction.