Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

nillu nasser all the tomorrows

Review: All the Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser

As is the case with most of the author-provided books I read, I’ll admit my expectations were somewhat on the low side when I picked up All the Tomorrows. I’m a critical reader – or perhaps a more accurate term is a picky reader – and while I enjoy plenty of books, I’m not one to gush just because it offered me a good story. No, there has to be more than that. I need good characters, I need evocative writing, I need a well-constructed setting. Give me a fun story, and you can expect a solid 3 stars. Give me those extras, and the rating goes up.

Guys, I read the Nasser’s first sentence and knew I had something special.

All the Tomorrows is, truthfully, a bit out of my comfort zone. It’s set in India, and centers on two people who’ve fallen into an arranged marriage. The marriage fails, and the two go their separate ways, but not without trauma and heartbreak. We get to experience both sides of it, and both sides are equally painful.

Nasser has written incredible characters in Jaya and Akash. It’s no surprise that I have a thing for broken characters, and these two…man, these two. Broken is probably too kind of a word. But the thing about a good broken character is that they’re still redeemable. Yes, they do awful things. Yes, they moan about the results of those awful things. And yet….they go on. They fight. They wallow. They fight some more. They make dumb decisions and good decisions, and eventually, either heal or at the very least, accept their circumstances. And soon enough, a broken character becomes beautiful.

I loved the way Nasser deals with the ramifications of each character’s choices. It’s often a fine line between using societal norms as a crutch or using them to enhance the tension, and Nasser walks that line incredibly well. I raged for Jaya, I raged for Akash, and through it all, I respected their culture and heritage and values. What initially seemed archaic and brutal and repressive also, at times, made me long for that kind of sense of cultural identity and conviction. I credit Nasser’s writing for that.

Now, those of you who’ve skipped straight down to the rating (it’s ok, I do it too), will want to know why I’ve only given it four stars. I was all set to give it five, until literally the last paragraph. All of a sudden, the story just ended. It was so abrupt that I scrolled through to make sure I hadn’t skipped a page. Endings are one of the things that can either make or break a story for me. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but it does need to make sense. This one felt like someone told Nasser, ok, you have to stop now. It’s been several days, and I’m still scratching my head about it.

Despite the strange ending, I can’t say enough good things about All the Tomorrows. If I have one other complaint, it’s that I wish it had a snazzier cover. Pick this one up and be ready to fall in love with Jaya, Akash, and their story.

Paperback: 308 pages    Published: November 2017 by Evolved    Source: Author Provided

Buy it on Amazon for $4

All the Tomorrows on Goodreads

Sometimes we can’t escape the webs we are born into. Sometimes we are the architects of our own fall.

Akash Choudry wants a love for all time, not an arranged marriage. Still, under the weight of parental hopes, he agrees to one. He and Jaya marry in a cloud of colour and spice in Bombay. Their marriage has barely begun when Akash embarks on an affair.

Jaya cannot contemplate sharing her husband with another woman, or looking past his indiscretions as her mother suggests. Cornered by sexual politics, she takes her fate into her own hands in the form of a lit match.

Nothing endures fire. As shards of their past threaten their future, will Jaya ever bloom into the woman she can be, and will redemption be within Akash’s reach?

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americanwar

Review: American War by Omar El Akkad

American War. What do I even begin to tell you about this book? I finished it weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it. I totally understand why it was nominated for two Goodreads Choice Awards (and yes, I voted for it).

American War is one of those wonderful books that both entertains and makes you think. It follows Sara T. Chestnut, known as Sarat, as she navigates the horrors of life during the second American Civil War. As you read (or in my case, listen), you begin to realize that what the author describes isn’t that far-fetched after all. A country where North and South are at odds over resources and politics? Where red and blue become more than just an association – they become an identity? Where people turn on each other, torture each other, and hate each other?

Not so hard to imagine, is it?

Perhaps this is what makes American War so compelling, or perhaps it’s Sarat herself. This fierce, defiant, and eternally loyal little girl who grows up to become one of the most influential and terrible people in the war. And yet, for all her faults, you can’t help but empathize with Sarat. Her experiences as a child make her who she is as an adult – hard, but haunted. There’s a humanity and tenderness in her, that you wish for throughout the whole story, but only glimpse at times. Sarat is one of the most complex characters I’ve read in a long time.

American War isn’t perfect, and the lack of exposition for the war itself is most of what kept me from giving this one 5 stars. I’d rank it behind both Station Eleven and The Road, though the feel is similar. It’s an entirely plausible dystopian novel, both timely and tragic. Well worth the read.

Hardcover: 352 pages    Audio: 12 hours

Published: April 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group    Source: Purchased via Scribd

Buy it on Amazon

American War on Goodreads

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war – part of the Miraculous Generation – now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

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Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

About Beartownbeartown

Hardcover: 432 pages
Published: April 2017 by Atria
Source:
 Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionThe #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Review

I’ll come right out and say it…..there’s way too much talk about hockey Beartown. Both the book and the town, frankly. If Beartown had been written by anyone other than Fredrik Backman, I’d have given up about 25 pages in. There’s THAT MUCH HOCKEY. And too much repetition. But it’s Backman, and I’m a Backman fangirl, so I kept at it. (For evidence of just how much I love Backman, check out my previous reviews of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.)

Beartown tells the story of a small town’s dreams of being hockey champions. Those dreams rest on the shoulders of the boys’ junior team as they enter the semifinals. Then tragedy occurs, and the town has to deal with the fallout.

I apologize for the spoiler here, though I imagine it’s not too much of a giveaway if you read the book jacket. This book deals with rape.  You can’t read Beartown and not think about the way society responds to rape victims. Whether that was his intent or not, the book has some pretty hefty options for discussion. It’d be a great book club book.

Beartown’s cast of characters is a motley crew of misfits, miserable adults, and misguided teenagers. For me, there’s just something about the way Backman writes his characters. They’re real. They’re awful and they’re beautiful. They’re human. Perhaps that’s it – they represent the many pieces of all of us. No other writer makes me care so much about what happens to his or her characters. Reading a Backman novel is an emotional experience – it’s like meeting someone, falling in love, having your heart broken, and then finding out you really were soulmates and forgiving each other.

In short, it’s a Backman novel through and through. If you’ve read and loved his others, you’ll love Beartown. Likewise, if you hated his others, steer clear….unless you’re mad for hockey. If you’ve never read Backman….start with A Man Called Ove.

Review: And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

About And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

• Hardcover: 76 pages
• Published: November 2016 by Atria Books
• Source:
 Library (via Overdrive)

Goodreads DescriptionFrom the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.

“Isn’t that the best of all life’s ages, an old man thinks as he looks at his grandchild, when a boy is just big enough to know how the world works but still young enough to refuse to accept it.”

Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the odds and ends that have made up their lives: Grandpa’s work desk, the stuffed dragon that Grandpa once gave to Noah, the sweet-smelling hyacinths that Grandma loved to grow in her garden.

As they wait together on the bench, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife, what it was like to lose her. She’s as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won’t remember her.

Sometimes Grandpa sits on the bench next to Ted, Noah’s father—Ted who never liked math, prefers writing and playing guitar, and has waited his entire life for his father to have time for him, to accept him. But in their love of Noah, they have found a common bond.

Grandpa, Grandma, Ted, and Noah all meet here, in this peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time. And here is where they will learn to say goodbye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to fear. This little book with a big message is certain to be treasured for generations to come.

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I adore anything Fredrik Backman writes. I think I’ve pushed A Man Called Ove on just about every reader I’ve encountered. Both Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry made me cry big ugly tears, in a good way. I have yet to read Britt-Marie Was Here, and I’ve got Beartown, his newest, pre-ordered. And I’ve had And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer on hold through the library for weeks. For such a short little novel, it sure took a while to get to me!

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a novella about losing what most of us hold most dear: our memory. It’s about the fear and pain that comes with cognitive decline, both for the person experiencing it and the people who love them. It’s about the struggle between anger and love, past and present. And strangely, it’s hopeful – because as Grandpa says, Noah will get the chance to make his goodbye perfect, something most of us don’t get to do and live with regret over.

True to Backman’s form, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is beautiful and painful and utterly perfect.