Seriously, I am on such a roll with book reviews, it's ridiculous. It's kind of great Penelope goes to bed for the night around 7:30 because that means my marathon reading sessions at night have started again!
Bright Lines - Tanwi Nandini Islam
A vibrant debut novel, set in Brooklyn and Bangladesh, Bright Linesfollows three young women and one family struggling to make peace with secrets and their past.
For as long as she can remember, Ella has longed to feel at home. Orphaned as a child after her parents’ murder, and afflicted with hallucinations at dusk, she’s always felt more at ease in nature than with people. She traveled from Bangladesh to Brooklyn to live with the Saleems: her uncle Anwar, aunt Hashi, and their beautiful daughter, Charu, her complete opposite. One summer, when Ella returns home from college, she discovers Charu’s friend Maya—an Islamic cleric’s runaway daughter—asleep in her bedroom.
As the girls have a summer of clandestine adventure and sexual awakenings, Anwar—owner of a popular botanical apothecary—has his own secrets, threatening his thirty-year marriage. But when tragedy strikes, the Saleems find themselves blamed. To keep his family from unraveling, Anwar takes them on a fated trip to Bangladesh, to reckon with the past, their extended family, and each other.
Not the strongest debut novel I have ever read, but it certainly is not the worst. The biggest thing I took away from the writing alone is that this author tried so hard to sound smart and poetic. Which sounds like I'm digging on her, and I'm truly not. I clearly do not have a grip on the English language as much as Ms. Islam does because I basically sat with my dictionary app open on my phone so I could refer to words. At least one on every page and I'm not even kidding. But that aside, really interesting book.
The story centers around Anwar and Hashi, parents of Charu. Charu is very much an American teenager torn between American norms and her traditional parents. So we have all of the obvious drama that you would imagine. Then enters Ella, who finds herself orphaned and sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her parents are murdered. Eventually Ella goes to college but she comes back she finds Maya, basically taking up residence in her space in the home. Maya has run away from an incredibly abusive and oppressive home because her father is an Islamic cleric.
The three girls spend an entire summer basically learning more about themselves, each other, and finding a place they identify and belong to in America. But it can't be that easy because while they are off busy doing all of that, Anwar is tempted by a tenant above them while his marriage is a bit... boring. Anwar and Hashi each have secrets of their own and when Anwar brings everyone back to Bangladesh to reconnect with family, even more secrets come out.
High provocative, very interesting, and certainly anyone who has immigrant parents would most certainly identify with the story. The book does start off a bit slow for my liking but it does pick up a few chapters in. If you can stick with it, I do think you'll end up liking it. The characters were well developed and I really kind of felt for Ella. And most certainly I felt for Maya, I can't imagine what it would be like to live with a parent such as hers. I think Anwar understood the needs of the girls when they were in America but Hashi really just wasn't having it. To me, she came off as more traditional and strict than Anwar did and I guess I assumed that the father would take that role on. So that was something unexpected for me. I'll have to give this a solid 3/5 stars. Not bad for a debut.
The author does have a website you can visit and you can find this book on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble!