Friday, September 11, 2015

Mini Reviews Part III

For this round I seem to have an emotionally difficult/cultural reads theme going.

First up, The Girl From the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan.

Asher Malacouti can't fully measure his own success until he fathers an heir. As such, his wife Rakhel finds herself increasingly fearful of her place and status in the home and in Asher's affection. Her desire to give birth to a son is a plague on her mind, one that soon pushes her to great lengths and is felt throughout the household and its history.

This was a tough read for a few reasons. First, the book is told from the perspective of one of the only remaining Malacouti family members as she faces her final years. The story transitions roughly from Mahboubeh's present to Rakhel's past numerous times and it becomes difficult sometimes to tell which "present" we're in.

Second, there's the subject matter and the issues facing women of the time and culture in which the story takes place. It's awful to consider and heart wrenching to read about. And it's based in part on the author's own family history, which makes it somewhat worse.

That said, it's not like we can simply ignore this kind of reality. Nor can we honestly say that it's all relegated to history either. This is the kind of issue packed book that will likely bring about lots of discussion amongst book clubs. it's the kind of book that brings up lots of emotions on the part of readers, too. It's an uncomfortable read, sure, but one that brings up lots of thought worthy topics.

Rating: 3/5

Next up, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

Lydia Lee knows what it's like to be different. She also knows what it's like to feel the pressure and responsibility that comes with being different. People simply expect more, her parents included. 

Lydia is also dead, but her family doesn't know this just yet. 

It's 1977 and Lydia is the eldest daughter of James and Marilyn Lee, a mixed-race couple who want their children to succeed in ways they were never able to. Marilyn especially wants her daughter to follow in her own footsteps as a medical student, hopefully one day becoming the doctor she always thought she herself would become. But as the story begins Lydia is nowhere to be found. And as time passes with no word, the family's fear escalates. 

Everything I Never Told You is less about Lydia's fate and the circumstances that caused her death than it is about the family as a whole. The pressures, the generational differences, the overall lack of communication... and how the death of one of their own affects them all.

Overall it's a pretty tragic tale, one that's emotionally difficult but exceptionally well written. The mystery of Lydia's fate will draw you in, but the family will ultimately be what keeps you enthralled.

Rating: 3.5/5

And finally, The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa.

When the Isrealis took their land, Mamdouh and Nazmiyeh found themselves the only surviving members of their once strong family. Forced to flee to Gaza, they lost both their mother and Mariam, their youngest sister, the same day of their escape. Nonetheless, Nazmiyeh always felt Mariam's presence - and she was right. 

Mariam and her invisible friend, Khaled, watch over generations of the family from what they call the blue. Together, they help guide their loved ones, uniting lost generations and offering comfort when most needed. 

Ok, this is just a really hard one to churn out a description for. Honestly, I've been mulling it over for MONTHS.

First, I have to say that yet again this is a TOUCHY AS HELL subject. Yes, the author goes into some of the specifics regarding the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In spite of this, though, I never thought the author was delving too heavily into the politics of the matter. (I feel it's necessary to point this out because I think regardless of your own opinions on the matter, this is a truly fantastic book.)

Instead, the focus is on a family, their losses, their loves, and their ultimate survival. It's definitely a weighty emotional read and the family suffers some awful atrocities throughout the story, but it's also a hopeful and uplifting read as well.

I can't recommend this one highly enough. I think Abulhawa is a truly talented author and The Blue Between Sky and Water is a beautifully written story.

Rating: 5/5

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