Book Review: The Refugees

Book Review: The RefugeesThe Refugees
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Pages: 224
Published by Grove Press
Genres: Literary Fiction, Multicultural, Short Stories
Goodreads

With the coruscating gaze that informed The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

This second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

My Takeaway  “For all refugees, everywhere” – Dedication in The Refugees “In a country where possessions counted for everything, we had no belongings except our stories.”  Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Refugees Holy moly! What an incredible, emotional and remarkable book! I am honestly having a hard time coming up with the…

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Book Review: Exit West

Book Review: Exit WestExit West
by Mohsin Hamid
Pages: 231
Published by Riverhead Books
Genres: Magical Realism, Literary Fiction, Fiction
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In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

My Takeaway  “We are all migrants through time.” Mohsin Hamid What a magnificent and magical novel! At a mere 240 pages, Exit West is jam-packed with beautiful, poetic and imaginative writing (and fabulism tinges). Hamid is a magician of words and I was a guest on his magic carpet…

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Book Review: Pachinko

Book Review: PachinkoPachinko
by Min Jin Lee
Pages: 490
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Literary Fiction, Multicultural
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Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

My Takeaway  “Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.” Min Jin Lee, Pachinko What an amazing, enjoyable and unforgettable book! Pachinko is a page-turner and beautifully written. The cover of the book is brilliant and spectacular as well (I love…

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Book Review: Return to Sender

Book Review: Return to SenderReturn to Sender
by Julia Alvarez
Pages: 327
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genres: Young Readers
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After Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’t sure what to make of these workers. Are they undocumented? And what about the three daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected her American life. Her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences?

In a novel full of hope, but no easy answers, Julia Alvarez weaves a beautiful and timely story that will stay with readers long after they finish it.

My Takeaway  Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, captures the enduring struggles and fears many undocumented workers face in the United States. The story begins and takes place on the Paquette’s dairy farm in Vermont. Tyler Paquette’s father suffers a tractor accident and is unable to complete the…

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Book Review: An Exaltation of Larks

Book Review: An Exaltation of LarksAn Exaltation of Larks (Venery, #1)
by Suanne Laqueur
Pages: 550
Published by Cathedral Rock Press
Genres: LGBTQ, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
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September 11, 1973: Eleven-year-old Alejandro Penda watches from his apartment window as Santiago, Chile falls to a military coup, destroying his family and his childhood. Arriving alone in America, he’s taken in by the Larks: a prominent family in the town of Guelisten. Though burdened by unresolved grief for his disappeared parents, he becomes fiercely loyal to the Larks, eventually marrying one of their daughters, Valerie.

September 11, 2001: Javier Landes watches from his apartment window as New York City falls to terrorism. As one of Manhattan’s top-paid male escorts, this professional lover has never lacked for company and is loyal only to himself. But in the wake of 9/11, Jav is named guardian for an orphaned nephew in Guelisten and must open his carefully-guarded heart to pain he's long suppressed.

Alex, Valerie and Jav meet first in their twenties, with a sudden attraction each finds strange and compelling. When they meet again in their forties, they discover not only is their bond still strong, but their life experiences are strangely similar. All have been shaped by separate 9/11's, and their unfinished business from the past will change everything they know about love, loyalty and friendship.

"Life has rules. You cannot come in the middle of the night and take what we agreed isn't yours."

Across three decades and two continents, Suanne Laqueur's fifth novel explores the unpredictability of sexual attraction, how family ties are forged, torn and mended, and how love's downfall can turn to exaltation.

My Takeaway  “Second chances are given or made.” Suanne Laqueur, An Exaltation of Larks Wow!! An Exaltation of Larks is poetic, risqué, sensual, and beautiful. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read. If you’ve been reading my reviews (thank you) you know I always aim for…

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