Sift | Critical Book Review

Alissa Hattman’s Sift is an intriguing foray into the complexities of loss and love, skillfully distilled through evocative and poetic prose. Nathaniel Drenner delves into the heart of this Third Thing novel, providing insights into its unique narrative.


A Glimpse into Despair and Recovery

Sift opens with a surprising sense of wonder and joy, despite being at its core a tale of grief. The protagonist emerges from emotional and physical isolation, navigating a dystopian world shaped by an unspecified authoritarian government. Hattman weaves a tale of recovery and transformation, uncovering beauty within the depths of despair.


Emotional Meditation in Prose

While following a definitive plot, Sift takes the form of 59 prose poems, presenting a meditation driven by emotion rather than action. The narrative unfolds in a dystopian future, post an unexplained climate disaster, with the broader setting serving as a resonant but subordinate backdrop. The novel’s momentum centers around the first-person narrator’s journey, revealing reflections on loss, love, and the environment.


Sensuous Language and Vivid Descriptions

Hattman’s language is sensuous and poetic, grounding abstract feelings in tangible details. The novel maintains a quick yet lingering pace, with vivid descriptions and introspective musings that bring the immediate surroundings to life. Despite its brevity, Sift captivates readers, offering a rich and immersive experience.


Perseverance and Transformation

The novel’s power lies in its exploration of perseverance and transformation, both literal and metaphorical. The relationship between the narrator and The Driver (later known as Lamellae) serves as a focal point, showcasing the internal strength found within oneself catalyzed by others. The novel presents a realistic meditation on loss and love, avoiding sentimentality without providing easy answers.


Surrealism and Poetic Quality

Sift occasionally stumbles in its surrealism, creating a magical, mystical quality that blurs the line between literal and metaphorical. Despite this, the pleasure derived from the language itself carries readers through, allowing them to be swept along with the narrative. The novel, suffused with sentimentality, maintains a delicate balance, never veering into maudlin territory.


A Rare Feat of Emotional and Technical Achievement

In its culmination, Sift achieves a rare feat. Hattman constructs a futuristic world by focusing on minute details, turning action into a form of meditation. The narrative, which primarily unfolds within the narrator’s mind, leaves a lasting emotional impact that transcends its technical achievements. Alissa Hattman’s Sift is an unforgettable exploration of grief and transformation in a dystopian landscape.


Book Overview

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
The Third ThingLiterary Fiction / Dystopian126 pages9781737925835

Alissa Hattman’s Sift is an intriguing foray into the complexities of loss and love, skillfully distilled through evocative and poetic prose. Nathaniel Drenner delves into the heart of this Third Thing novel, providing insights into its unique narrative. A Glimpse into Despair and Recovery Sift opens with a surprising sense of wonder and joy, despite…