The Lowland

From goodreads

Growing up in Calcutta, born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead of them. It is the 1960s, and Udayan--charismatic and impulsive--finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty: he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother's political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family's home, he comes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind--including those seared in the heart of his brother's wife.

Pages: 344 (hardback) 

Publisher: Published September 24th 2013 by Knopf (first published September 8th 2013)

Rating: 9 out of 10

Source: Checked out of the library 

Date Completed: November 7, 2013

I was excited that The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri was selected for both of the book clubs I am in for the November and December meetings. The story of the brothers, Udayan and Subhash drew me in instantly. I was especially struck with how their relationship evolved as Subhash moved abroad to pursue his education while Udayan stayed in India and became more engrossed in politics.  My parents both left siblings behind in India when they got married and began a life in the United States.  I have often been curious about how their relationships with their siblings evolved over time and distance.   In the book, Subhash and Udayan drifted apart, but as they story unfolds, we come to know that their fundamental connection remains in tact. 

 My favorite character was Subhash. He was thoughtful and insightful; his journey seemed the longest and the most fulfilling. I wanted more from the female characters, particularly Gauri.  Her character seemed limited and unlike able.  I appreciated her desire for a fresh start, the chance to pursue a professional career, and time alone. However, I felt frustrated with her lack of concern for her daughter and inability to communicate with Subhash. 

In addition to book clubs, I am counting this book for the following challenges: 

Posted on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 9:10PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Round House

From goodreads

One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.

Pages: 321 (hardback) 

Publisher: Published October 2nd 2012 by Harper Collins

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Checked out of the library 

Date Completed: October 9, 2013

I kept hearing that The Round House by Louis Erdrich was an amazing book; I nominated it to be read by book club many times. When I heard that Erdrich won the National Book Award, I decided to read it on my own. My takeaway is that this book should be on the must-read list for humanity.  The story is compelling, the characters sympathetic to the point that I worried about Joe when I was not reading and compared all the different types of parents I know to his.  I learned a lot about reservation life and tribal law.  There was a scene where Joe's father was explaining tribal law with the use of a frozen casserole which I keep replaying.   The unfairness and complexity of seeking justice in a screwed up legal system was illustrated beautifully.  In addition to the plot development, I also liked hearing about the traditions; particularly the story telling. 

Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 8:43PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? 

From goodreads

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” 

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Pages: 222 (hardback) 

Publisher: Published November 1st 2011 by Crown Archetype (first published January 1st 2011)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Source: Checked out of the library 

Date Completed: September 28, 2013

I was excited when the Boston book club selected Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. I had been curious about the book and, as a fan of the Office, wanted to get some details about what happened on set. While I enjoyed the book overall, I wish that it had been more consistent.  Some sections I really loved and others were just okay.  Because I had read excerpts of the book that were published in magazines or read during interviews and/or heard about different sections, I also felt a bit like I do when I go see a movie and realize that the previews gave away the major plot points.  

Nonetheless, I loved laughing (instead of crying which I have done WAY TOO MUCH recently with my book choices) as I was riding while using public transportation.  The chapter about high school and first real friend reminded me of my first best friend Sonja. (If you reading, hello Sonja! I am excited to talk with you again!) Kaling captures the desire to transform into some cool person and then realizes that the best friends are the ones with whom you can be yourself while still striving to be better.  My other favorite chapter was the one of types of women in movies who are not real.  It was both funny and sad.  One of the reasons I am hoping that Kaling has continued success is that I want her to write more women who are relatable, funny, and realistic-- just like her!

I am counting this book for the 2013 South Asian Reading Challenge as Mindy Kaling is South Asian

P.S.-- She is hilarious on twitter. You should follow her: @mindykaling 

Posted on Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 4:51PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Fault in Our Stars

From goodreads:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Pages: 313 (hardback) 

Publisher: Published January 10th 2012 by Dutton Books (first published January 2012)

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Checked out of the library 

Date Completed: September 17, 2013

When The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was picked as the October selection for book club, I was worried that I would not be able to finish it on time as there was a long wait list at the library.  Once I got the book and started reading, I was hooked and could not read fast enough.   The book blew me away with the sadness, sweetness and humor that came from almost every chapter.   The premise of the story is incredibly sad and sets you up for an intense emotional ride, but seeing Hazel (the main character) deal with teenage things like idiolizing writers and dealing with the complications of having a crush makes you forget some of the sad stuff.  I felt gutted as I read some of the hard adult things she was dealing with like dying, death, and worrying about her loved ones. 

In addition to Hazel, I also loved her mom. There is one scene in particular which pretty much ripped my heart out which involves a discussion of what makes you a parent.  As I was reading this book, I kept wishing for a way to hide my tears better in public.  << If anyone has suggestions or ideas on that, I would love them.

I am reading this book for the following challenge: What's in a Name Five: for the category of something you would find in the sky.

Posted on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 5:16PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

Sea of Poppies

From goodreads

At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean; its purpose, to fight China’s vicious nineteenth-century Opium Wars. As for the crew, they are a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.

In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a freespirited French orphan. As their old family ties are washed away, they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers. An unlikely dynasty is born, which will span continents, races, and generations.

Pages: 528 (hardback) 

Publisher:  Published October 14th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Checked out of the library multiple times  

Date Completed: August 23, 2013

As part of my constant enthusiasm for reading challenges, I signed up again for the Chunkster Reading Challenge this year and was excited for the new addition of a book club.  One of the selections for this year was Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. I am about four months late with my participation, but I wanted to answer the questions posed on the challenge website. My short responses are below.  Because of limited time and energy, I am not answering all of the questions. 

Overall, I really loved the book. Initially the characters were hard to keep track of, but once they were all on the ship, the story took off.  My favorite character was Deeti and I loved how so many scenes covered a variety of topics including social conventions, class, caste, colonialism, racism, and romance.  

  1. Have you read anything by this author before? If so what have you read and how does it compare to Sea of Poppies? I have not read anything by the author before. 
  2. How does class and the caste system impact the relationships between the characters? A lot of the interactions were dictated by social norms. The characters did not seem to have genuine connection until they were on the ship where many conventions disappeared. However, even on the ship, there was a class and caste system in place. 
  3. How are women's roles different from men's in Sea of Poppies? What common ground do Deeti, Paulette, and Munia share? This question requires a much longer response than I am able to provide now.  The gender functions play a huge part of women's decision making in the book. In thinking about their lives, all of the female characters struggle with how to go outside the norm while being a woman.  All three, Deeti, Paulette, and Munia are taking a scary journey for the chance to start over.  As the journey continues, they bond with each other and share stories of themselves that reflect a new reality. 
  4. Many of the lives Ghosh depicts are shaped by social and political forces beyond their control. What are some of these forces? Describe some of the individual acts of bravery, defiance, or deception that enable his characters to break free from what they see as their fate.  Another heavy question which I will only answer partially.  Some of the larger forces in play are colonialism and imperialism. 
  5. How does the opium trade industry compare to modern-day drug trafficking versus the pharmaceutical industry? I am going to skip. 
  6. There are two more novels in the trilogy. Do you have plans to read either of them? Both of them?  Yes, I hope to read both of them

I am counting the book for the following challenges; 

Posted on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 11:26AM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment