Why did Mindi want an arranged marriage?
And yes, the erotic stories are shared. Just because of the title, I expected comedy, some coming of age and Learning Life’s Lessons, but I got much more. It’s a credit to Jaswal’s writing that I wasn’t disappointed by that, sooner the opposite.
Yes, there’s definitely comedy, and main character Nikki (Mindi’s sister) needs to discover what she wants to do in live and how she’ll do that without hurting her Punjabi family (and surroundings, in a way). This is definitely a story about the two lives immigrants/children of immigrants live, but it’s never just that. Nikki thinks she’s going to teach the widows Creative Writing, the widows prefer to share their creativity in another way.
Alongside that is a plot line that at first might feel tacked on. Missing girls, bitter feuds, really? But then it all starts to connect and this isn’t just a comedy any more, this is an all too realistic calling card to look at misogyny. Suddenly the tempo is picked up and the reader has to juggle several plot lines colliding.
But as mentioned before, Balli Kaur Jaswal does it well. Making this novel all-round entertaining and informing.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal, Harper Collins 2017
The strange woman standing on Hope’s main street was so ordinary it was almost scandalous.
Cutely annoying, not annoyingly cute (which I think is weird to say as both a negative or positive critique, by the way). And I say this because the main character takes her time with growing a spine and taking her place in the world, and that her surroundings are one-dimensional small town cliches for a while. This book needs a bit of your patience.
But darn it if it doesn’t turn out to be adorably charming, with just the right amount of quirk to save you from having to roll your eyes.
A Swedish tourist visits a small American town and stays. She comes alive, the town comes alive around her. There’s plenty of love for books, and a belief that there’s a book for everyone. There’s romance, on different levels.
And just like that, the fish-out-of-water plot turns into love-for-life. Life lessons for everyone, cuteness all around, a novel like a biscuit with unexpected great tasting filling.
The Readers of Broken Wheel recommend, Katarina Bivald, Chatto & Windus 2015
In a single year, my father left us twice.
This was work. I don’t know how I managed to read two similarly build up novels (the other one being Disappearing Moon Cafe), but this one was the tougher of the two. Maybe because the comparison material was so recent. Both left me wondering how I’d like something contemporary written by an Asian actor.
Anyway, time moves every way but chronologically in Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Keep your head with you, because there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of things. The most brutal one, probably Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the horrors of Tiananmen Square.
These aren’t light, bright stories. There seems to be no end to what a family can be put through, and the small, mythology-like side steps only make the difference starker. How did anyone come out alive?
It’s a novel to take in in small doses, to learn and see through another set of goggles.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien, Granta 2016
How on earth could I have let them talk me into it?
Now this is a book that deserves my time, that very probably already landed a spot on my end of the year book list. A book like a four course meal, every dish not just bright and good looking, but a new experience in taste. This is Eat, Pray, Love in one country, Chocolat for book lovers, an encyclopedia for emotions for those that can’t recognise them.
This might be the first male mid life crisis I have rolled absolute no eye over. Nary a blink. Because what else to call it, the discovery of a gross mistake leading him to throwing away twenty years of his life?
Luckily, Nina George looks out for the lost Jean. Both travel, country and people help him, without it ever feeling too convenient, too easy or not human enough.
I’m glad I read this.
The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George, Crown Publishers 2015