Book Review: Brother

IMG_0911Title: Brother
Author: David Chariandy
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From McClelland & Stewart: An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.
With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home.
Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry — teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.
Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael’s dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me a free arc in exchange for my honest review. 

My Review: BROTHER is a timely short story and exploration of racism, poverty, and police brutality. This book will strike a chord with humankind. Chariandy doesn’t mince words as this story quickly unfolds about an immigrant Trinidadian family who moved to Canada to find the American Dream.

Brothers, Francis and Michael come of age during the late 80’s / early 90’s. Immigrants were not welcomed and received backlash to go back where they came from. Their mother works long days and wants better for her sons. Food is scarce and racism prevalent. The boys love hip hop music and Francis has high hopes the music scene will get him out of their rundown Scarborough neighbourhood. The brothers are close and do everything together but Michael has a hard time fitting in and navigating the tough crowd Francis befriends. Francis is the older brother and in the absence of a father falls in line as protector and shoulders the responsibility of income also leaving little in the way of being a child. Their mother has one expectation of them and that’s not to screw up this opportunity.

This is not a feel-good story. The narrative intensifies and the final scene is numbing. This book is about brotherly love, social injustice and survival. It felt cold and distant but it’s an important story that’s timely and appropriate for diverse reading.

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Book Review: Things That Happened Before The Earthquake

IMG_0838Title: Things That Happened Before The Earthquake
Author: Chiara Barzini
Publisher: Doubleday
Source: Library
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Doubleday: Mere weeks after the 1992 riots that laid waste to Los Angeles, Eugenia, a typical Italian teenager, is rudely yanked from her privileged Roman milieu by her hippie-ish filmmaker parents and transplanted to the strange suburban world of the San Fernando Valley. With only the Virgin Mary to call on for guidance as her parents struggle to make it big, Hollywood fashion, she must navigate her huge new public high school, complete with Crips and Bloods and Persian gang members, and a car-based environment of 99-cent stores and obscure fast-food franchises and all-night raves. She forges friendships with Henry, who runs his mother’s movie memorabilia store, and the bewitching Deva, who introduces her to the alternate cultural universe that is Topanga Canyon. And then the 1994 earthquake rocks the foundations not only of Eugenia’s home but of the future she’d been imagining for herself.

My Review: I fell in love with THINGS THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE from the get-go! The story opens up with Eugenia’s parents and grandmother sunbathing nude on a beach in Malibu – yes, you read that right! I was a teenager coming of age in the 1990’s and Barzini captures the people and culture during this toilsome time to a T – LA riots, O.J. Simpson’s acquittal, and the Northridge earthquake.

Plucked from her quaint and cozy life in Rome, Eugenia’s hippy parents moved to LA to get rich and famous after a successful bout in a Spam Italy commercial. Her dreams of living in Hollywood are quickly snubbed when they roll up to their new house in “barrio Nuys” as the cabbie calls it. Another sign Eugenia adds to her list of why moving to LA is a bad omen. And it’s these experiences that lend both a sentimental and funny basis to the story.

An awkward and naive Eugenia, who looks to the Virgin Mary as her role model and calls on for advice, navigates her way around superficial and inward looking peers in school and a culture of wanting to fit in, gang violence, sex and drugs. Feeling dejected Eugenia puts on her figurative ‘rubber suit’ and turns to sex and drugs to cope. She befriends a disabled agoraphobic guy from a failing movie memorabilia shop who supplies her with drugs. It isn’t until Eugenia returns to Italy that first summer that she realizes her connection to her homeland is lost. And back in LA she enters into a bizarre sex and drug filled relationship with an alluring girl living in a hippie commune in the hills.

I think this book is perfect for those coming of age in the 1990’s because the events and culture are so relatable but equally enjoyable also for anyone looking for a poignant and humorous view of this decade.

 

August Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0843Hi, Book Friends! It’s the end of August and the end of summer. I read 10 books the month of August and don’t know if it’s because I had that much more free time or neglected some responsibilities, or both! And, all of these books with the exception of one were 4 or 5-star reviews – woohoo!

MRS. FLETCHER – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance.
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.
THE GODDESSES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I was sucked in from the get go because I can relate to Nancy’s need to find her purpose in a new place as a stay at home mom, which isn’t always easy.
YOUNG JANE YOUNG – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with.
MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!
DEAD WOMAN WALKING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about a hot air balloon ride gone dangerously wrong when the passengers witness a cold blooded murder in the act on the ground below them.
LAB GIRL – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A scientific, biographical memoir depicting the author’s personal journey becoming a woman in science filled to the brim with passion, drive, emotion and rawness.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My first reaction to Turtle is to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and to let her be a kid.
THE FUTURES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Brilliantly weaves together a story about first careers, young love and the financial crisis of 2008.
THINGS THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about an Italian immigrant family moving to LA to strike it rich in commercials in the early 1990’s. The themes are funny, disturbing, moving but most of all spot on. (Book Review coming soon)

Book Review: The Futures

IMG_0840Title: The Futures
Author: Anna Pitoniak
Publisher: Lee Boudreaux
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
Source: Library
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Lee Boudreaux: Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia–blond, beautiful, and rich–fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

With the market crashing and banks failing, Evan becomes involved in a high-stakes deal at work–a deal that, despite the assurances of his Machiavellian boss, begins to seem more than slightly suspicious. Meanwhile, Julia reconnects with someone from her past who offers a glimpse of a different kind of life. As the economy craters, and as Evan and Julia spin into their separate orbits, they each find that they are capable of much more–good and bad–than they’d ever imagined.

My Review: THE FUTURES brilliantly weaves together a story about first careers, young love and the financial crisis of 2008. I listened to the audiobook in two days which was highly addictive and so, so good! Each chapter alternates between Evan and Julia’s perspectives told with honesty and naivety as they come of age.

Evan and Julia are fresh out of Yale and heading to New York City where Evan will join a prestigious hedge fund and Julia settles for a non profit assistant position thanks to her family’s connections. Growing up in a modest family in small town British Columbia Evan earned his way to Yale on a hockey scholarship. Meanwhile, Julia had every advantage as part of Boston’s elite. I love the idea of Evan and Julia as a couple. They are young, in love, and exude youth and vibrancy, the kind of couple everyone wants to be like. But their storybook romance takes a turn when Evan gets caught in the crosshairs of the financial crisis at work jeopardizing both his career and relationship with Julia.

THE FUTURES is an amazing debut novel brimming with rich characters, an engaging plot, and many relatable themes. I highly recommend this book for a quick end of summer read.