And the Mountains Echoed

From goodreads

In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. 

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

Pages: 416 (ebook)

Publisher:  Published May 21st 2013 by Riverhead

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Purchased for my Nook since book club date was coming close and my spot on the wait list was still low.  

Date Completed: August 13, 2013

I was very excited when both the book clubs that I am in selected And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini to read for the same month.  Every since I knew the book was coming, I put myself on the wait list at the library. Many people had the same idea as me and I realized that I was not going to get the book in time for the first meeting and decided to purchase my own copy.  With my limited reading time and energy, the fact that I finished the book in a week should stand alone as my recommendation. 

I have read both of Hosseini's previous novels and this is my favorite by far.  The characters are diverse and connect to each other in some surprising ways.  I loved reading the different frames of parent-child, partner, and family relationships.  Each story and narrator was unique, but I loved how everyone was tied together with a desire to reconcile memory and longing for home with reality.   During both book club discussions, some people thought that there were too many characters and that the switching of narrators was hard to follow.  I certainly wanted to hear more from some characters and less from others, but I liked the different perspectives.  The following quote captures my experience of reading the book: 

“A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later.” 

One of my favorite characters is the only Pari whose adult life is marked by the feeling that something is missing. I was cheering for her so strongly and was glad with the resolution of her story line.  Another one of my favorite characters was Markos and his revelations about his mom.   I also appreciated the Alzheimer's story line and the complexity of the overlap between caretaker and parent/child relationship. 

In addition to book club, I am counting this book for the following challenge: 

What's in a Name Five: Many years later, I am still trying to finish this challenge. I am counting this for the category of land formation. 

Posted on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 4:39PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

From goodreads

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Pages: 290 (paperback) 

Publisher:  May 5th 2009 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 2008)

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Won from a contest hosted by a book blogger that I can no longer remember  

Date Completed: June 27, 2013

I have had The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows on my to-read shelf for quite a while and was very excited that it was picked as the June selection for the Boston book club. From the first page, I completely loved the book!  The story is perfect for people who love books, appreciate the value of written correspondence, and want to cheer along as a love story unfolds. 

**Spoiler Alert**

The book is a collection of letters between Juliet and various other people which describes the formation of a book club on the Island of Guernsey during the German occupation. In the course of correspondence, there are glimpses into what life was like during the occupation.  I cried at several points during the book, particularly during a passage describing children leaving on a ship.  There was also a humanization of the soliders as described in the romance between Elizabeth and a German solider. You also get a taste for how much the members care for each other as they begin to care for Kit, Elizabeth's daughter when she is taken to a concentration camp. 

Many moments made me pause to either cry, laugh, or absorb.  One of my favorite parts of the story was the unfolding romance between Elizabeth and Dawsey.  In particular, I appreciated the description of marriage and what a partnership should be; I wanted to cheer loudly.  Most especially, I love this quote about what Juliet wants out of a relationship: 

“I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.” 

I also liked this description of what marriage means and wish I had found it earlier so that I could have somehow incorporated it into my own marriage ceremony: 

“All my life I thought that the story was over when the hero and heroine were safely engaged -- after all, what's good enough for Jane Austen ought to be good enough for anyone. But it's a lie. The story is about to begin, and every day will be a new piece of the plot. ” 

Even though I finished the book a few months ago, I still keep thinking about it. I also want to correpond with someone via postal service. 

Posted on Monday, August 19, 2013 at 9:48PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Comfort of Lies

From goodreads:

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption.

Five years ago, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she's questioning whether she's cut out for the role of wife and mother.

Five years ago, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a solid marriage, two beautiful young sons, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan's affair. He promised he' never stray again, and she trusted him.

But when Juliette intercepts a letter to her husband from Tia that contains pictures of a child with a deep resemblance to her husband, her world crumbles once more. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he's kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. And before long, the three women and Nathan are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted.

Pages: 323 (hardcover) 

Publisher:  Published February 12th 2013 by Atria Books

Rating: 5 out of 10

Source: Won from TLC book tours book club of the Month contest  

Date Completed: June 11, 2013

I was really excited when I found out that I had won the TLC book tours book club of the month contest. Since I am still on a book buying diet, most of my books come from the library.  When I purchase a book, I get the paperback version.  I love the library very much, but I do miss owning hard cover books. Anyway, when the box of books arrived, I was excited to see and hold my own copy of The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers.  I was glad that the book was chosen as the June selection.

As I read I was struck with how much judgment there was between the women.  Juliette, in particular, seemed to constantly be sizing people up based on appearance and the type of paper they used to write notes.  Tia was also judge mental, but her criticism was mostly towards herself. After reading those characters for awhile, I started to wonder if all women secretly judge each other.  I do not think that is true based on my own experience, but I certainly did not enjoy being in the world created by this author.

The character I disliked the least was Caroline.  She worried a lot about what others thought of her and questioned her parenting abilities. I related to her uncertainty and anxiety about not doing right by her child and spouse.  Her passion for her work is also something I can relate to, but her fantasies about not being a parent or a partner were disturbing.

In spite of my lukewarm reaction to the book, I really enjoyed our meeting and the discussion.  Winning multiple copies of the book made our selection process pretty easy.

Posted on Friday, August 2, 2013 at 3:54PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

Secret Daughter

From goodreads

Somer’s life is everything she imagined it would be—she’s newly married and has started her career as a physician in San Francisco—until she makes the devastating discovery she never will be able to have children.

The same year in India, a poor mother makes the heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away. It is a decision that will haunt Kavita for the rest of her life, and cause a ripple effect that travels across the world and back again.

Asha, adopted out of a Mumbai orphanage, is the child that binds the destinies of these two women. We follow both families, invisibly connected until Asha’s journey of self-discovery leads her back to India.

Pages: 358 (paperback) 

Publisher:  April 5th 2011 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published March 9th 2010)

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Recommended by one of my neighbors who thought I would enjoy and she was absolutely right! 

Date Completed: May 10, 2013

When I first met my neighbor L, we discovered a shared passion for reading.  When we were on the same commuter rail coming home from the city, we would often talk about what we were reading, exchange books, and add to our ever growing to-read lists.  Last fall when she told me about a book she purchased that she thought I would like and asked if I would like to borrow it, I did not hesitate to say yes.  While I took awhile to get started, once I began could not read Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda fast enough! 

I am South Asian and grew up in an Indian-American community; one of the stereotypes about Indian culture is that there is a lot of preference for sons. During my fellowship in DC, a big part of my professional time was consumed with it to as I worked on advocating against sex selection abortion bans.  The narrative in the book captured the importance and need for culture change in terms of creating options for women and valuing the lives of girls.  While I was not surprised to read about the difference in treatment of women and girls between those in higher economic brackets with those in lower ones, I was surprised that I felt empathy and understanding with all the characters.  I even felt compassion for Kavita's husband as he was trying to explain why they could not keep their daughter. 

I also appreciated that the story of sexism, in particular expectations of women as mothers and spouses, was not limited to talking about India.  The story of Somer in the United States touched on so many universal themes-- the challenging of longing for and wanting a marriage, children, and a career.  The fear that your link to your child will diminish as she goes out into the world and the constant worry and wonder about her well being is universal.   Somer's description of the change in her career focus, and the shifts in dynamic with her husband illustrate the ways in which shifting priorities can manifest themselves in ways that build resentment and cause a lose of identity.  I loved the part of the story line where Somer rediscovers some of her passions and reflects on why she did not even question the change in career direction and make couple time with her husband.

Finally, I loved following the journey of Asha. Her search for identity and longing to feel like she belonged was beautifully illustrated.  Her connection with her family in India and search for her birth family was so moving to read. One of my favorite parts of the book is realizing how much she is loved by her birth mother, grandmother, and mom.  I had tears in my eyes as she reflecting on the time her mom took to make it easier for her to swallow medicine or make birthday cake.  I also cried when she used her knowledge of the status of girls in India to realize that her birth mother loved her enough to give her a bangle.

I am counting this book for the following challenge:

2013 South Asian Reading Challenge: The book is written by an Indian-American author, has South Asian characters, and part of the story takes place in India.

Posted on Sunday, July 28, 2013 at 9:56AM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines

From TLC book tours:

Enchanted by the movies she watched while growing up in affluent Tehran in the 1950s and ’60s, Shohreh Aghdashloo dreamed of becoming an actress despite her parents’ more practical plans. When she fell in love and married her husband, Aydin, a painter twelve years her senior, she made him promise he’d allow her to follow her passion.

The first years of her marriage were magical. As Shohreh began to build a promising career, Aydin worked at the royal offices as an art director while exhibiting his paintings in Tehran. But in 1979 revolution swept Iran, toppling the Shah and installing an Islamic republic under the Ayatollah Khomeini. Alarmed by the stifling new restrictions on women and art, Shohreh made the bold and dangerous decision to escape the new regime and her home country. Leaving her family and the man she loved behind, she fled in a covert journey to Europe and eventually to Los Angeles.

In this moving, deeply personal memoir, Shohreh shares her story: it is a tale of privilege and affluence, pain and prejudice, tenacity and success. She writes poignantly about her struggles as an outsider in a for- eign culture—as a woman, a Muslim, and an Iranian—adapting to a new land and a new language. She shares behind-the-scenes stories about what it’s really like to be a Hollywood actress—including being snubbed by two of Tinseltown’s biggest names on Oscar night.

Pages: 288 Hardcover

Publisher:  Harper (June 4, 2013)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Source: Received copy for participation in TLC book tour

Date Completed: July 10, 2013

When I was asked to read and review Shohreh Aghdashloo's memoir, The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines, I was very excited.  In particular, I was looking forward to reading an account of an actress of color who is also an immigrant managing the American film industry.  I first remember seeing her in the movie House of Sand and Fog which I enjoyed. 

The first chapter of the book drew me in; reading about the Oscar night prep and experience was fun.  Her experience with Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger showed that not everyone can be gracious at all times. In spite of that knowledge, I was annoyed that they did not even smile or nod at Aghdashloo. For the record, I did not enjoy Cold Mountain and would have preferred if Aghdashloo had won.

Anyway, I loved the lyrical descriptions of Iran and her childhood. The description of her family and the ways she tried to hide her modeling from her dad made me smile.  Her courtship and marriage to her first husband was sweet.  Some of the political events in Iran made my jaw drop.  Some of the chapters were choppy and I found myself wanting more details of the specifics of how she became involved in the demonstrations.  The pace of the book made it seem like her decision to leave Iran was sudden.  The way she came to her decision to divorce her husband was also surprising and sad.

I also wanted more details on her breaking into the Hollywood scene.  In particular, I wanted to learn more about her transition from performing to mostly Iranian audience to a broader base.  From other things I have read and heard, I know that there is a tendency to type cast women of color.  I was hoping to get more of Aghdashloo's perspective on finding substantive roles and balancing acting with her passion for politics.

More tour information can be found here.


Posted on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 10:21AM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | Comments3 Comments