The Isolation Door: A Novel

From goodreads

Neil Kapoor, 23, is desperate to create a life beyond the shadow of his mother’s schizophrenia. Years of successive relapses and rehabilitations have forced his father into the role of caretaker and Neil into that of silent witness. But there is no light within this joyless ritual, and any hope for the future rests on finding an exit. 

Amidst her latest breakdown, Neil attends drama school in pursuit of a role that might better express the truth of who he is. What started as a desperate gambit becomes the fragile threads of a new life. A relationship blooms with Emily, and each finds strength – and demons - in the other. New friendships with Quincy and Tim grow close and complex. But the emotional remove needed to keep these two lives separate destabilizes the family. Neil’s father, the one constant in the chaos, buckles under the pressure. Enlisting the aid of an Aunt with means and questionable motives, Neil plies ever-greater deceptions to keep the darkness at bay. But this time there will be no going back. As his mother falls to terrifying depths a decision must be made: family or freedom?

Pages: 276 (paperback) 

Publisher: Published February 4th 2014 by Ravana Press (first published January 25th 2014)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Source: Won from TLC book club of the month contest

Date Completed: June 4, 2014

Each month, I get an email about the TLC book club of the month contest and see the selections. I enter for any books that look interesting. I was really excited to win The Isolation Door: A Novel by Anish Majumdar.  I was intrigued by the plot and glad that our book club picked for the June selection.  The story was easy to get into, but parts felt a little bit disjointed.  The issue of stigma with mental illness was addressed well as was the competing desires to start a new life while fulfilling family obligations. 

I had a hard time with Neil's relationship with Emily and his pursuit of drama. The friendships he formed in school seemed random and I had a hard time believing the genuineness of the depth of the connection. Unfortunately, I was not able to make the book club meeting. I heard from other members that they could either not get through the book or that they did not like it because it was really dark. I did not mind the darkness, but I think that parts of the plot could have been developed more. 

I am counting this book for the following challenge: 

 The Perpetual South Asian Challenge as the author and the subjects of the novel are both South Asian. 

Posted on Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 6:23PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | Comments2 Comments

The Hundred-Foot Journey

From goodreads

Born above his grandfather's modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps.

The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais (that of the famous chef Madame Mallory) and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures.

Pages: 256 (hardcover) 

Publisher: Published July 6th 2010 by Scribner (first published 2008)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Source: Checked out of library

Date Completed: April 15, 2014

I first heard of The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais when I read a list of books to read before the movies come out.  The premise intrigued me and it had a combination of two of my favorite things--family and food. The actual story also incorporates religious tension, cultural assimilation, and immigration. It was a combination of heavy and lighter themes. Each time I read a passage, I felt hungry. 

As hard as it was to read both as a parent and a child, I loved reading about Hassan's journey of taking the steps both literal and figurative to go across the street to start his next adventure. While I am not a particularly good cook, I could relate to the desire to cultivate and chase passion.  The book was picked for the Boston book club and I was sad to find out that most of the members did not like the book; they found that it dragged. Many of them thought the movie was quite good.  Since I really enjoyed the book, I am looking forward to the movie

I am counting this book for the following challenges: 

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 5:32PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | Comments1 Comment

The Valley of Amazement

From goodreads

Violet is one of the most celebrated courtesans in Shanghai, a beautiful and intelligent woman who has honed her ability to become any man's fantasy since her start as a "Virgin Courtesan" at the age of twelve. Half-Chinese and half-American, she moves effortlessly between the East and the West. But her talents belie her private struggle to understand who she really is and her search for a home in the world. Abandoned by her mother, Lucia, and uncertain of her father's identity, Violet's quest to truly love and be loved will set her on a path fraught with danger and complexity-and the loss of her own daughter.

Lucia, a willful and wild American woman who was once herself the proprietress of Shanghai's most exclusive courtesan house, nurses her own secret wounds, which she first sustained when, as a teenager, she fell in love with a Chinese painter and followed him from San Francisco to Shanghai. Her search for penance and redemption will bring her to a startling reunion with Flora, Violet's daughter, and will shatter all that Violet believed she knew about her mother.

Pages: 589 (hardcover) 

Publisher: Published November 5th 2013 by Ecco (first published October 24th 2013)

Rating: 9 out of 10

Source: Checked out of library

Date Completed: April 2, 2014

I have loved Amy Tan ever since I first read Joy Luck Club in college.  A few years ago, I enjoyed reading her memoir The Opposite of Fate on a trip to India. I was really excited to learn that she had a new book coming out, The Valley of Amazement.  My excitement and anticipation only increased when I read the story of her search for a new editor who ended up working with her on this book.  Since the book was in high demand and I am still on on a book buying budget, I had a lot of breaks in my reading as the book had to be returned and I needed to wait my turn.  

In spite of stopping and starting multiple times, I found myself engrossed in the story. In particular, I liked getting to know Violet and seeing her grow.  Parts of the book were slow, but I felt like there were lots of saucy parts which made for some juicy reading.  As with all of her novels, I appreciated the exploration of mother daughter relationships in a way that honors complexity and conflict.   The lessons on how to be a courtesan were fascinating and the ways in which she fell in love made me feel both hopeful and sad. 

I am counting this book for the following challenge: 2014 Chunkster Reading Challenge: At 589 pages, this is certainly a chunkster.  

Posted on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 12:43PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Invention of Wings

From goodreads:

Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Pages: 373 (hardcover) 

Publisher: Published January 7th 2014 by Viking Adult

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Checked out of library

Date Completed: March 17, 2014

The first book I read by Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees, gave me lot to think about while still sweeping me up in a compelling story.  I was excited when the Partners and Professors book club selected the Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd for our February meeting.  As I started reading, I was again swept up in the story and a bit guarded because I feel like lately I have read several books with similar themes.  

In the months between finishing the book and writing the review, the thing which I keep thinking about is the importance of not only believing in yourself, but in having men (aka those with power and investment in the current structure) also believe in you.  There is a powerful scene where Sarah makes a declaration that she wants to become a lawyer and her father public mocks her and basically shuts her down.  After reading and reflecting on that passage and the rest of the book, I felt profoundly lucky that my own father always encouraged and believed in my ability to do great things.  Even now, I have the chance to take the bar exam because he and my mom believe in me enough to provide resources to make it possible for me to try again. 

I also love the intersection between race and gender. As Sarah and her sister Angelina begin working in the abolition movement, they start to give voice and power to the need for women's empowerment.  The conflict this causes and their response to it is one of my favorite parts.  As Handful begins to find ways to connect to the world outside the Grimke farm and figure out how to make her own path, I love the way her power and resources are cultivated to bring her freedom while honoring her past.  The novel is certainly about women finding and asserting their powerful.  It is also about friendship, reaching across race and class lines, but in a way that feels real and complicated. 

Posted on Monday, June 30, 2014 at 5:32PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

We are Water

From goodreads

In middle age, Anna Oh - wife, mother, outsider artist - has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Anna has fallen in love with Vivica, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.

Anna and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets--dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.

Pages: 561 (hardcover) 

Publisher: Published October 22nd 2013 by Harper

Rating: 9 out of 10

Source: Checked out of library

Date Completed: March 7, 2014

I loved Wally Lamb even before I read any of his books.  When I was living in New Orleans, I attended the Tennessee Williams literary festival  and heard him speak; he had a wonderful spark and I liked hearing how the plots for his books developed.  He also did a writing exercise with the group and I wish I could remember his words exactly, but his passion for working with women in prison was inspiring.  He was also a great sport and took a picture with my friend and me.  Since then, I read and enjoyed I Know this Much is True and She's Come Undone

I was very excited to read We are Water even though the premise seemed a little dark. Parts of the story were hard to get through and others were disturbing.  Sometimes, I felt really angry and upset; sometimes, I laughed.  No matter what emotion came out, I always wanted to read more. I thought hard about what makes a marriage work, the importance of career, and family connections.  I wondered what I would do in the position of all the characters.  I was frustrated with what I perceive as a lack of consequences for some terrible behavior.  

The biggest surprise is how well characters who are easy to hate because of things they have done evoked some sympathy from me.  I did not like them, but I did not hate them with as much vengeance as I thought when I reflected on the story.  My favorite characters were all three of the kids and my least favorite were the parents. The complexity of family relationships and the ways childhood shapes adulthood were examined pretty well. 

I am counting this book for the following challenges: 

2014 Chunkster Reading Challenge: At 561 pages, this is certainly a chunkster.  

What's in a Name 2014: for the category of a type or element of weather as water qualifies as an element of rain

Posted on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 10:11PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment