I haven’t done a Recent Reads post in a few months, but I have still been reading tons. A few highly anticipated novels that fell flat for me were The Wonder; The Girls and The Barkskins. A few books that are worth reading and well written, but not major standouts, include The Year of the Runaways, The Marriage of Opposites and Don’t You Cry. But really, the following four were the only real winners for me.
Homegoing By Yaa Gyasi
Summary: Effia and Esi, are half sisters unaware of each other in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia becomes married to a British slaver and lives in a castle. Esi is captured and imprisoned beneath that same castle while awaiting to be sold and shipped off to America. The story follows the lives of two branches of the same tree. Esi’s branch in American slavery that eventually finds freedom, and Effia’s branch that remains in Ghana and loses its once respected place in society. The story takes us through three hundred years, generation after generation and shows us how slavery left its mark on each.
Review: This book is phenomenal and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction. It is so well written, so beautifully and painfully articulated, it painted scenes in my head that will stay with me for a long time. The way the two branches switch places on the totem pole so to speak, one high would get knocked down and then the other would rise, resonated with me for some reason. Such a powerful story, so much brutal reality and love with just a little sprinkle of magic that leaves you filled with pride and rage and hope. You should read this book.
A House Without Windows By: Nadia Hashim
Summary: Zeba, a wife, mother and generally decent Afghan villager, has her life shattered when her husband Kamal is found murdered with a hatchet right outside of their home. She is lucky she is not killed as soon as things are discovered, instead she is sent to prison to await her trial. Her lawyer, Yusuf, left Afghanistan as a young boy and has returned with visions of helping human rights victims. The book unfolds slowly to reveal what really did happen in that courtyard, while also giving us a glimpse of the lives of modern day Afghan women.
Review: I was completely enthralled by this book. It was not predictable at all and kept me hanging on every word to discover what actually happened to Zeba’s husband. Of course, the reality of being a woman in a place like Afghanistan is…what is the word…insane. So your emotions get wound up with anger and sadness and this builds with the story. At the heart of all of it is a mother’s love, strong, tragic and unconditional. I loved it. I enjoyed the scenery and the momentum of the writing, as well as the story itself. This is one of those books that does a great job taking you somewhere different, outside your comfort zone, only to find the same things that exist everywhere else. The extremes are different, but the roots are the same.
LaRose By Louise Erdrich
Summary: A man shoots his neighbors young son in a tragic accident on his North Dakota property. As an act of atonement, the shooter’s family gives the grieving family, their own young son. This is the story of those two families, some buried history and a need for justice.
Review: I have loved Louise Erdrich for twenty years. The first book I read of hers, Tales of Burning Love, hit me like a Mack truck and while I don’t really remember the story much, I still remember the characters. This book was like that for me as well, it is all about the characters. They are so multifaceted, presented to us in such complex detail that they become people you know, people you love, people you don’t like. This story was bizarre to me, such a sacrifice to be given out of guilt and/or reparations. Part of me was just flabbergasted by the idea, but another part of me thought the act was noble and just. It is just so damn tragic! And the characters are so real that you feel like this is unfolding in your own community, to your own neighbors. Not epic or sweeping, but so affective…I loved it.
My Name Is Memory By Ann Brashares
Summary: Daniel has the ability to recall every single one of his past lives since the year 552. During that particular lifetime, he took the life of an innocent woman. In his quest to make amends, his lives and her lives become intertwined. He spends centuries, life after life, spanning the globe, searching for and falling in love with the same woman.
Review: This is a story of reincarnation, karma and love. I very quickly, within just a few pages, got hooked. It bounces around history to show us the links and keeps you on edge because you are never sure if something terrible is going to happen and prevent Daniel and Sophia to finally be together, both in the know. The worst part about this book is the ending…and it is really terrible. It almost made me dislike the whole thing, but here I am, six weeks later and I am still enamored with the story. A four star book with a two star ending.