Kiran Shah is a little different compared to his peers in 1980s Western New York; he is Indian, obviously gay, and also somewhat geeky. His older sister Preeti is more conventional in her ways; while Indian, she has converted to Christianity (and religion will be a large influence on the family in this book), and she fits in well as a pretty cheerleader. She even dates baseball star Shawn for a period in middle school. But Kiran has his own secret relationship with Shawn, which may have contributed to Shawn’s public humiliation of Preeti when they are 12, and Kiran is only 8. The guilt from this event follows him into adulthood, and even spreads out to affect his family.
When Kate Pearson graduated college and was all set to move in with her French boyfriend in Paris, it came as a hard shock when he decided that was the time to break things off with her. In the next months, she fell apart, spending most days on her sofa or bed, going days without showers, and generally being miserable. With the help of her sister and friend Chloe, she finally gets it together enough to land a job at one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools as an admissions officer.
Kate is, at first, quite overwhelmed by a job she’s sure she has no business doing. But meeting these families who would–and do–do anything to get their kids into the perfect school gives her a focus and keeps her busy. Soon Kate is highly invested in her job and slowly but surely getting her life back on track.
The year is 1987, and in the world of 14-year-old Billy, Clark, and Alf, nothing is more important than getting their hands on the recently published, scandalous pictures of Vanna White appearing in Playboy. The boys, somewhat outcasts, come up with ways to get their hands on the magazine…settling on the idea that Billy should romance the newsstand owner’s daughter so that he might gain the security code and they then would break into the shop and steal themselves a copy.
Convoluted? Yes. But there was more than one circumstance in which the characters seem to go through tremendous effort to carry out their bad decisions. They even built a scale model of the buildings so they could visualize the break-in. For 14-year-old boys, this is asking a lot.
When she was a child, Willow’s father cheated on her mother and left their family in shambles. She and her mother moved to New Mexico, where she felt like an outsider among the Apache people. Her only saving grace in her mother’s strange and eccentric new life was Darrel, a young Apache boy who would become her best friend in the world.
Fast forward many years, and Willow is a musician living in Los Angeles. She finds out she’s been dumped, and that her mother has died in a tragic accident on the same horrible day. And when she returns to New Mexico to settle her mother’s affairs and sees Darrel for the first time in years, he realizes before she does that she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child.
Set in Southwestern France in June 1944 during the German occupation, Lacombe Lucien is a tense work digging into the pathos of the era. The French citizens go about their lives quietly trying not to bring any attention to themselves. No one seems to know where his or her neighbor’s and, sometimes, even family loyalties lie. Lacombe Lucien is the 1974 screenplay collaboration between renown French movie producer Louis Malle and Patrick Modiano, recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. Translated into English by Sabine Destree, the screenplay is beautifully written and easily read.
Jade Chang’s novel, Wangs vs. the World is highly entertaining. It is a portrait of a family complete with all of their similarities and their differences. She shows them as they come together and also when they fall apart. The novel is a very quick read. Chang’s prose is energetic and flows flawlessly. She peppers in thoughts about immigration and politics but it is not heavy-handed and fits within the confines of the novel well. The thoughts propel the story to its conclusion.
Charles Wang has lost everything. He once had everything–fancy cars, a lucrative business, many factories, enough money to be comfortable and then some. He has three children, Grace, Andrew and Saina. He’s married to his second wife, Barbra. His first wife was killed in an accident six months after his youngest daughter, Grace, was born.
It’s been more than ten years since I was in high school, but I do have a younger brother who’s still there…and I really am thankful that he doesn’t have the attitude of any of the characters in this book. Honestly, not a single character in The Most Dangerous Place on Earth was likable. I’m not sure if that’s what the author intended, but that’s how I felt.
The novel tells the somewhat disjointed story of a group of kids who have grown up and gone to school together since their elementary years. In eighth grade, something tragically avoidable (and very maddening to read about) happened to one of their classmates, and though you’d think it would affect all of the kids’ lives pretty deeply, it doesn’t.
Reviewed by Nina Longfield
In a rural province of India, young Anil Patel witnesses secondhand the miracle of modern medicine when a traveling clinic restores health to a baby girl and faith within the family. Anil is then determined to enter the medical field with his father’s blessings. Anil’s father sees medicine as an honorable calling and encourages his son’s pursuit giving him permission to remain home away from the fields so he can study, which Anil does morning to night.
The description of Morning Light states:
“Emily, a twenty-four-year-old dancer and choreographer, confronts her husband’s fixation with right-wing Catholic dogma that condemns her use of birth control. His faith is so powerful that he refuses to have sex with her, even though he desperately wants to. As awful as this broken faith feels, she is troubled more by her best friend’s losing fight with cancer, and seeks to help her friend’s grief-stricken, precocious, son–the seventeen-year-old David. But the boy’s willful ways turn the tables on her. Denied intimacy by her husband, the boy’s passion asserts itself, and everyone’s life is explosively altered.”
In theory, this is a very intriguing story that would make me dive right in. Stories about battling cancer, romance, forbidden love, and marital problems are packed full of drama and emotion that usually result in wonderful tear jerkers. Unfortunately, this book did not provoke any intense emotions for me, and was a rather dull, if not frustrating, read.
Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz
Lovers and Newcomers is a very large book (439 pages) that seems to present life as a large game of musical chairs, or beds, or roofs, for that matter. At the beginning there are four couples, who became friends while in their 20s. At the time of this story, they’re all approaching 60 or thereabouts.
Miranda was a fairly well-known actress when she met Jake Meadowe, who was twenty years older, but it was a strong instant attraction. Jake was the last of his line, and had enjoyed being the squire of his community of Mead, in the Norfolk area. The house itself was fairly ancient, by today’s standards: rambling, mostly remodeled, but without having obliterated all the charming older features.