Posts Tagged ‘Realistic Fiction’
Delphine Khanum fantasizes about rekindling her relationship with her father-in-law Zaki, whom she loved long before she met and married his son. But as she discovers in this richly layered, multi-generational tale, the closer one’s dreams become, the more risk there is of losing sight of what really matters.
Review: Aspirations and family ties are examined across three generations of the Khalil family in Farooki’s enjoyable novel. Lucky Khalil is a talented young soccer player with his sights set on taking the World Cup home for England. His father, Jinan, is the serious-minded, hard-working son of a Bangladeshi immigrant, married to Delphine, who feels her perfect marriage is confining. The patriarch of the Khalil family, Zaki, is a shopkeeper and gambler with wanderlust and an attraction to his son’s wife. As you discover earlier on in the book, Delphine is approximately fifteen years older than Jinan and Zaki was once her lover.
When Delphine gives in to Zaki’s advances, family bonds are stretched to the breaking point and the character’s true colors appear. As each of the characters advance in their ambitions, the cross-purposes of their desires and responsibilities blend intricately and threaten to crush the family.
The Corner Shop is clearly a character driven novel. Each character struggles with attaining their dreams or rather the mere idea of what their dreams should be. Reality and aspirations clash. With the exception of Jinan, who achieved his dreams and is happy with the results, it was interesting how other Khalil family members felt trapped yet at the same time freed by their dreams. Before being a contender of England’s football (what we in the US call soccer) team, Lucky is already plagued by a nightmare of failing his country. Delphine who came across as a modern day Madame Bovary is tired of her “perfect marriage” where she is adored and respected by her husband. Delphine wants more of the romantic notion of a marriage rather than the banal day to day moments with her husband. Zaki is suffers from the Peter Pan complex who abandons his conventional shopkeeper’s life and responsibilities when things get too complicated for him and abruptly leaves to search for something fulfilling.
I like how The Corner Shop avoids the overly discussed theme of being immigrants adjusting to a new lifestyle and zeroes in what we all, regardless of our cultural, religious, social backgrounds may be, think of: what, exactly, leads to a more fulfilled life? Though told mostly in the omnipresent third person narrator, there are sections where the narration style breaks and some of the characters narrate their side of the story, which can be challenging to follow and interrupts the pace and tone of the book. For the most part I enjoyed the flawed characters, but the twisted love triangle between Delphine, Zaki, and Jinan was hard to wrap my head around and just felt wrong. All in all, a nice quick read for fans of Jhumpa Lahiri and Zadie Smith.
Readalikes: Interpreter of the Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Description: Kimberly Chang and her mother have immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn in the 1980s with the help of Kim’s Aunt Paula. As a result, they are are forced to work for Aunt Paula in a Chinatown clothing factory earning one and a half cent per item they make in order to repay their debts. With barely enough to keep them alive and living in a dilapidated, rodent and insect infested house house without heat, Kimberly is determined to make her and her mother’s life better.
Review: There are many immigrant stories told throughout the years. Their struggles with culture shock and poverty are nothing new, but nonetheless familiar. What sets apart Girl in Translation is the voice and strength of the main character, Kimberly Chang. Kim is a very smart girl who is practical, incredibly intelligent, hard working, loyal, and a dutiful daughter. She knows her limits in terms of her poverty and learning a new culture that is completely different from her own, yet she is resolute in finding a way out of her situation as well as naive. I connected with Kim right away. I understood her desire to grab on to education as her way to gain freedom, both economically and personally. Her dutiful roles and thinking of her family mirrored my own beliefs. Although she has her own share of flaws, Kim never resorts to long term angst and anger towards her mother for their dire situation, which is mainly due to the fact that her mother is doing all that she can to survive. The book is Kim’s odyssey from adolescence to womanhood.
The writing of Girl in Translation is very simple and straightforward. I liked how Chinese proverbs and sayings are interspersed throughout the book. The anguish and plight of the Chang women are well developed and tangible. I couldn’t help but root for Kimberly in her small and large victories. Just when I thought I had the book figured out, there was a big twist at the end that made me cry. Looking at Kimberly’s story and knowing her personality, I don’t think it could have ended any other way but it still broke my heart. Girl in Translation is an immigrant’s story, a story of coming of age, of love and loss, and of dreams to achieve. It is one that you should definitely read and experience.
If you like this book try: A Step From Heaven by An Na, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, or Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Description: Devastated by her parents’ decision to split up, pressured by her boyfriend to have sex, and saddled with a case of chicken pox, fifteen-year-old Keek finds consolation in her beloved, well-worn copy of Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.”
Review: And Then Things Fall Apart is an intricate character sketch of a teen watching her world fall apart around her and unable to gain any control over any aspect of it. Keek is under house arrest due to chicken pox at her grandmother’s house. She journals her thoughts, connects her life to one of her favorite books of all time, Sylvia’s Plath’s The Bell Jar, to explore her own thoughts, feelings in hopes of making sense of what they really mean on her grandmother’s old typewriter.
Keek’s words and emotions flow onto the page. She neither writes in prose nor in verse, but mixes many different types of writing forms that best illustrate her frustrations and feelings. She also compares her life to that of Plath’s protagonist, Esther in The Bell Jar. The connections aren’t over the top nor do they match exactly, however, they do convey the same spirit and are given enough context which will help readers understand even if they aren’t familiar with Plath’s work.
Keek’s voice is unique, real, snarky at best, making her an instant likeable character. Her problems with her boyfriend, feeling sexually inexperienced yet curious about her own sexuality as well as her family drama make Keek approachable. I couldn’t help but feel as if she were in the same room talking to me as I read the book, a trusted friend who is ready to vent and needing a confidant. Not only is she serious, she is also quite funny and quirky, making jokes and even at times sounding delirious from being sick and stuck inside a house with her grandmother, her father living in the basement, and no means to contact the outside world except a land-line phone.
Arlaina Tibensky’s debut novel makes us realize why some of us love to read: to find ourselves somewhere in our favorite characters and books, to know that we aren’t alone in our own troubles. Rarely are authors able to make ‘stream of conscious’ writing successful and not forceful, but Arlaina Tibensky is able to create a world for Keek in which she is given complete freedom to explore every detail nook and cranny about her life. Readers who enjoy character introspection and experimental writing will surely enjoy And Then Things Fall Apart.
If you like this book try: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner or Paper Towns by John Green
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
[Young Adult Fiction]
[Electronic Resource (My Media Mall eBook)]
[Electronic Resource (My Media Mall eAudiobook)]
Ruby Oliver has not been having a very good week. Her boyfriend dumped her for her best friend, her best friend is no longer speaking to her, she’s the topic of discussion on the girls’ bathroom wall, and now her parents are sending her to therapy. Her first official therapy assignment? The Boyfriend List. Ruby is skeptical, but as she composes her list, she begins to realize a lot of things about herself and the relationships she has with others.
The Boyfriend List has a particular kind of brilliance that sets it apart from other chick-lit. Ruby is tremendously funny—often laugh-out-loud funny—but Lockhart doesn’t rely on slapstick or laughter to carry the book. The humor is balanced by a very serious kind of inner reflection that you don’t see very often in this genre. Ruby’s genuine desire to understand herself and, more importantly, better herself, gives her dimension and sets The Boyfriend List apart from the crowd. Lockhart’s gift for dialogue and realistic thought patterns further enhance the novel—Ruby sounds like a teenager and her overly analytical thought process is intensely relatable and realistic.
Ruby’s adventures continue in the second and third volumes, The Boy Book and The Treasure Map of Boys. Real Live Boyfriends, the final installment in the Ruby Oliver quartet, comes out December 28, 2010 and is currently on order.
If you like The Boyfriend List, you might also enjoy The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonia Sones, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler, and Girl, 15, Charming, But Insane by Maureen Johnson.
Pros: A funny and thoughtful novel that avoids many of the clichés of the genre.
Review by Martha
Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Seventeen-year-old Lisabeth Lewis has been visited by Death. But Death did not come to end her life—he came to give her a job. Now Lisa is Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Lisa’s new occupation takes her to lands far from home where she is forced to see the devastating effects of hunger and come to terms with her own struggle with anorexia.
Jackie Morse Kessler’s debut teen novel packs a lot of punch for such a short book. The idea of the Horsemen is an original one and is well-executed for the most part. There are some points where Kessler becomes a little heavy-handed with her symbolism, but the novel is strong overall and effectively evokes an emotional reaction from the reader without resorting to sensationalism.
Jackie Morse Kessler has at least two more companion novels—Rage (April 2011) and Loss (2012)—that explore the stories of other Horsemen. If you enjoyed Hunger and are looking for something to read in the meantime, you might like Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Go Ask Alice by Anonymous, Tyranny by Lesley Fairfield, Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser, Crank by Ellen Hopkins, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (see Carlen’s review here). All of these books tackle a variety of serious and painful topics maturely and honestly. The Lake Bluff Library also owns a variety of non-fiction books about anorexia and other eating disorders.
Pros: The novel tackles a very difficult and emotional issue in an effective and original way.
Cons: At times, the prose suffered from a lack of elegance and subtlety.
Review by Martha
Maya is a fifteen year old science whiz whose con-man father has kept them running from place to place ever since she can remember. When the authorities finally catch up with her father and put him in jail, Maya is sent to a halfway house for foster kids. Her father soon relinquishes custody of Maya to the state of Nevada, yet states that Maya has an Aunt Sarah. The authorities brush aside his claims as yet more lies when their search for Aunt Sarah is unsuccessful. Maya decides to find Aunt Sarah on her own, escapes from the halfway house, and suddenly becomes a homeless runaway following a very cold trail to the only family she may have left. During her grueling and harrowing journey, Maya begins to realize that her scientific approach to life does not always take human frailty and needs into account. She becomes aware that not all of life’s circumstances fall into easy categories of black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. Maya’s character and the characters of her two unlikely traveling companions are fully fleshed-out and believable. Don’t let the rather boring title and book cover fool you–this story is fast-paced and well-written! Gritty, yet thought-provoking Realistic Fiction.
Sixteen year old Tennyson is furious when he learns that his twin sister, Bronte, is dating the odd and somewhat frightening Bruiser, but Bronte insists that Bruiser is just misunderstood. Tennyson eventually realizes that Bruiser is a sensitive, intelligent guy, but then the twins begin to notice something unusual. Bruiser appears to take on the pain (both physical and emotional) of those he cares for. Should Tennyson allow Bruiser to take on the cuts and contusions he gets from the lacrosse field? Should Bronte and her family let Bruiser take over the emotional turmoil that is engulfing them? Is feeling nothing a gift or a curse? Are Bruiser’s abilities a gift or a curse? This book raises compelling issues about friendship and sacrifice. Realistic Fiction that poses philosophical and ethical questions.
Fifteen year olds Blake, Sim, and Kenny have just attended the funeral of their best fried, Ross, who was killed by a motorist while riding his bike. The three boys agree that the funeral was pointless and insulting to the memory of Ross–no one who even knew Ross well spoke at the service! Ross had always spoken wistfully of moving to the town of Ross, Scotland, where he was certain he would “find himself” and become a great writer. The boys decide to give Ross a fitting memorial by stealing the urn containing his ashes and going on a 261 mile road trip from Cleethorpes, England, to Ross in southern Scotland. The events along the way provide plenty of laughs for the reader, yet the boys come to discover that it is easy to ignore certain difficult truths that are staring you right in the face. If you have aspirations to be a filmmaker, keep this one in mind–it would make a great movie! Funny and poignant Realistic Fiction.