The Golden Son by Shilpi Gowda – A well crafted story

  
The book has been on my desk for a few weeks now. I follow the author and her agent on Twitter and won an autographed copy in a giveaway. Waiting for my laptop to finish updating, I picked it up and started reading. 

Getting to bed well past midnight, the thing that struck me about the book was how well crafted it was. On the surface, it is about theimmigrant dilemma. It uses many of the same tropes that we see related to Indian American authors. There is the nod to family, to complex sibling relationships, to past loves. What I loved about the book is how well Gowda strings those threads. The characters are optimally used, and when you think the events are tending towards the stereotypical, she uses them to explore feelings and move the story.  Most importantly the book does not linger where we would expect it to. The writing is fresh and real. Gowda paints the semi rural India well and I put the book down thinking this will translate to the screen well. 

In the mood for a narrative that spans cultures, touches upon immigrant dilemmas and is refreshingly real? Pick this book. 

Advertisements

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

18693763

A book club I am part of picked this book for our next meeting. I was thrilled as it was on my TBR pile. Also, I follow @CelesteNg and love her take on most things related to race and diversity.

I read the blurbs, the front and back cover synopsis and settled myself comfortably with a throw on me. The first chapter reeled me in and kept me hooked until I turned the last page around midnight. The one word that kept repeating in my head as I went to bed was powerful.

The book is powerful in many ways. On the surface it is about teen suicide. On the surface it is about standing out in a world that demands integration. On the surface it is about a dysfunctional family bound by fragile threads of which their daughter is the center. But that is not all.

The characters have lived in my head for a day now. Lydia, Nath, Hannah, Marilyn, James. They are now placeholders for the many things in my life. Perhaps I related to the book so much because I am Asian too. Perhaps it is because our family stands out as transracial. Maybe. Maybe not.

The book is as much about aspirations and pressures to live up to another person’s dreams as much as it is about assimilation and wanting to be like others. Most of all the book is about being othered and othering.

Specially in the times in which we live now, where words like diversity are bandied about as appeasement, this book takes a family, rips them apart and lays their heart and soul on a platter. It is raw, gripping and definitely a book that will haunt you for days.

Read it if you are a person of color. Read it especially if you are not.

A powerful, powerful debut.

Split – Swati Avasthi

6270483

I stumbled on Avasthi’s book by chance. Browsing my library’s YA literature, this came up as available. I checked it out and read it over two days. The story starts well enough but by the time I was mid way, my heart was racing and I was as jumpy as Jace and Christian. The pace of the story, the minimal but well fleshed out characters, the attention to detail, the simple prose all of it come together and make the book shine.

As much as the story follows predictable turns, the storytelling is taut and the language crisp to keep you hooked.

Domestic abuse lends itself to dramatic storytelling but Avasthi has kept it understated, bald and stark. When you finish reading the last page, you lean back in your chair, close your eyes and imagine that Jace and Christian make it after all. You are invested in the characters and they linger long after you are done reading the book.

In the mood for literary YA? Pick Split by Swati Avasthi. You will not be disappointed. Definitely an author to watch for.

Yatrik – The Traveller – Interesting Premise

yatrik.jpg

I have followed GreatBong for years on his blog, cherry picking the posts I read. When his first book May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss came out, I made a note mentally to read it but never really got around to it. This past week browsing Kindle Unlimited, I saw that some of his books were available. I skipped the Mine because it promised horror and gore and I was not in the mood for that. Yatrik however promised what seemed like veiled philosophy and I was game.

I started the book and had to put it down when my child woke. I finished it yesterday night and lay awake for a long time pondering the questions the book raises.

“What if in the afterlife you get to take a peek at actions you were not part of that have a consequence on your life?”

“What if things are not really what they seem?”

All existential questions and rhetorical too.

As far as the book itself goes, I found the premise interesting but the characters seem like props to further the story along rather than take lives of their own.

I am not sure if it is because I am trying to learn the craft (writing) but throughout the story, I felt like I heard the voice of the blogger rather than the protagonist. The language is good and the pacing could have been better.

If you are in the mood for something that makes you look back on your life and wonder if there are things you would like to change, pick it up. You will not be disappointed.

Kite Strings – Well Written, Niche Story on Relationships

kitestrings.jpg

I signed up for a trial version of Kindle Unlimited and picked up a slew of books by Indian authors. Kite Strings by Andaleeb Wajid was one of them.

The story is set in Bangalore and Vellore and features orthodox muslim families. I started the book in the evening and finished it by night. The story moves quickly along, lingering just enough on each character to whet our appetites. By the time I was midway through the narrative, I was invested and rooting for the protagonist Mehnaz.

The language is good, the pacing superb and the locales painted with refreshing imagery. What I liked best about the tale was that this story was not written for an audience. It feels like a story that had to be said and probably flowed from the author’s fingers. I imagine her hunched over her laptop typing away trying to keep up with the pace of her thoughts. There is no sense of stilted conversations or labored over plot devices.

Pick it up if you are looking for a good book by an Indian author. Definitely recommend.

The Sleepwalker’s Guide To Dancing – Hypnotic and Brilliant

TSGTD

I stumbled across a book recco on Twitter that suggested The Sleepwalker’s Guide To Dancing. The title was intriguing enough for me to pull the Amazon listing. That the author’s name sounded Indian was enough to make me read the blurb and the reviews. I hopped over to my library’s online portal to place a hold and was surprised when it said I was next in line.

The book begins with a prologue that takes you right into the Eapen’s home. The characters are introduced in turn and before you know it, you are traveling with Amina as her mind takes her on journeys to her father’s homeland and back. You sit back and enjoy as she paints the arid earth of New Mexico and the moisture laden Seattle. Even as you settle in and think you know where the book is taking you, you are shaken as she is as life hands out one blow after another. Yet, you journey through it all because you want to.

You are part of the family as they grapple with the unknown. You are sitting there with Amina, Akhil and Dimple smoking as Sanji Auntie bears in. You wince as Jamie shows up unannounced at Amina’s home. You sit with bated breath in the doctor’s office as the test results come in. You hold your breath and weep unabashedly when it is all over.

The power of her writing is such that you do not read the story. You are a part of it. I am not sure if it is because I am Indian that the nuances of sibling relationships so fraught with angst, envy and emotion hit me square in my gut, but every situation she paints rings with authenticity.

Long after I finished reading the book, the characters stayed in my mind. Most times after I finish a book, I remember passages, I relish the writing, I go back and look at the construct of the story arc. With this book, the story is all that remains in my head. Mira Jacob is an author to watch out for.

This book is a keeper.

Gifted – Poignant and strangely haunting

gifted

I grabbed Nikita Lalwani’s Gifted from my local library’s fall sale. The cover appealed to me and I checked the blurb at the back and it resonated. I added it to my list of books to read as I research setting my story partly in India and partly in the US. I read the book over two days. The story starts promising with our typical Indian parents finding out that their child is gifted. As I read and followed along Rumika Vasi’s journey into adulthood, I ached for the childhood gone missing. I ached with her as she battles her demons alone. I ache for her parents who pour everything into her. As Mahesh ponders how to celebrate a momentous occasion and comes up short, I paused and nodded. This was a feeling I could relate to.

The prose is haunting. It is reminiscent of the lush, verdant prose of God of Small Things. I love how Lalwani weaves her tale juxtaposing elements of nature and the inner desolation Rumi feels. The description of journeys literal and metaphorical are beautiful. Certain parts feel like they drag and you are not sure why certain characters are introduced only to disappear. But those are minor irritants in what is otherwise a poignant coming of age tale.

Looking to read something a little bit offbeat. Wonder what it is like to be the child of driven immigrant parents? Pick Gifted. Solid, satisfying read.