I've never actually read any of his books, because they're ridiculously long and the summaries make them seem like they're about nothing. So I shouldn't lend any credence to this review. Thing is, normally a review panning a book makes me want to read the book, because I think critics are stupid and mostly wrong. This one seems different.
I actually read The Commitments, flags, you should too. It was a good read. Later, I read Franzen's novel about fracking, and taking the tops off mountains, and marital breakdown (what isn't about marital breakdown?): Freedom -- yes, both books are impossibly long, but you sort of miss them when they're over. And the sentences... and the experience of living the lives of the protagonists - he does that well.
This review casts aspersion on the notion of writing a book about a parent dying, saying
The picaresque adventures of a feckless male academic, borrowed from DeLillo;
The sentimental tale of the decay and death of one’s parents as in Dave Eggers’s “masterpiece”;
The old, old plot device of the family Christmas reunion to bring the centrifugal parents and kids back together again against all odds
I've noticed this: Parents die. They die in real life, and they die in novels.
Remember Microserfs? For all its high tech, startuptitude, in the end it's about parents dying.
Remember Bright Lights Big City, Jay McInerney's first novel. For all its life in New York City survivitude, in the end it's about parents dying.
Remember the Bible: well guess what? Parents die..
Full disclosure: I couldn't read the whole review by Dolan. To say that a novel about parents dying is a hackneyed storyline is saying that Hamlet has a hackneyed storyline because the son is trying to deal with the death of his father.