Night Road by Kristin Hannah

A book that was recommended by Goodreads. An author I had never heard of, but I guess, now on, I will be keeping an eye out for her books.


For Jude Farraday, a mother of twins, the last eighteen years of her life had been around her children. Mia and Zach, the twins were different personalities. Zach was the super confident boy with all the girls fawning over him. Mia was a shy teenager, who some girls made friends with just to be able to get close to Zach. They lived a seemingly perfect life, in a perfect community.

Lexi Baill, a former foster child moves into their community and ends up as Mia’s best friend. Jude takes Lexi under her wing and tries to make up for the unfortunate life that she had, in whatever little ways she could, without making Lexi feel like a charity case. For the first time in her life, Mia has a friend she can count on, someone who she trusts. Zach and Lexi end up falling in love, which initially upset Mia, but she manages to overcome it, and the three become close buddies.

It is senior year of high school, and the three of them, are in the process of applying for admissions into colleges. Jude starts to feel her control over the twins slipping, she starts to get worried about how close Zach and Lexi seem to be getting. The foreboding of danger that she had, turns into reality when one night, everything changes for the Faraday family and Lexi. A nightmare that they never would have imagined in their wildest dreams. One that shatters them and overnight, from a loving close-knit family, they become a shell of a family.

Jude is in put in a position of having to forgive someone who, in her mind, is the reason for her loss, her tragedy. Jude has to forgive, or live in bitterness. Her sadness and bitterness transforms her into someone totally different from what she had been. It was almost as if her capacity to love had been turned off. All the characters in the book are believable, real and people we start empathizing with.

A beautiful book, am absolute page turner. A book that explores the situation from all view points. From the teenagers(in different situations), from the mother’s when she is unable to let go, and when tragedy strikes. Of love that can be enduring, and lifelong. Of times when forgiving can get one the peace that one longs for. A book that pulls at your heart-strings, and makes you wish that you could just make it all perfect. The pain that the protagonists go through, and the hope that it ends with. An absolutely lovely book. A recommended read.

Advertisements

A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi

My first book by this author. I picked it up based on recommendations on Goodreads. Now will probably be a good time to talk about how much I have come to love Goodreads. Especially the recommendation section. I’ve come across interesting books, and new authors. I think I log on to goodreads more than I do on to Facebook, and that is probably a good thing too.

On the night of December 3, 1984, Anjali waits for her Army officer husband to pick her up at Bhopal Railway Station. The delay in his picking her up changes her life forever, when the catastrophic gas leak poisons the city. She manages to survive but her marriage does not. That night in the poisonous city, changed her life in more ways than one, and as she later came to realize, in ways that would affect her lifelong.

Years later, remarried to Sandeep, and mother to Amar, a young boy who is severely affected by the ill-effects of the gas his mother inhaled, life is tough, but peaceful and she finds happiness with what she has. Until the day, Prakash, her ex-husband re-enters her life. Prakash, the husband who is the reason her son is so very ill, Prakash who married her for all the wrong reasons, does that Prakash still have a place in her heart?

Narrated by 4 charachters, it is a beautifully told story. Emotions, insecurities, expectations and even our cultural baggage which moderates the way people think and behave is brought out really well. A poignant tale, beautifully told. The title is especially relevant too- through out the story, even at the very end.

I really liked Anjali’s character who after her initial conformation to tradition, and expectations, decided to chart her own way, despite the resistance from her own family. Fighting the odds, she lives her life, in the best way she can, without the bitterness that might have come with the trials she faced. Her husband Sandeep is another character you start feeling for. A book that had me crying.

I would heavily recommend this book, and would be looking out for her other books.

Mayil Will Not be Quiet by Niveditha Subramanium and Sowmya Rajendran

I need to first thank RM for the book 🙂 She gifted it to Daughter, and then told me to read it first, because her mum said it might not be appropriate for a 6-year-old. Am I glad or what? I might have ended up not reading the book if Aunty hadn’t said that – and what a loss that would have been! RM, thank you 🙂 and thanks to RM’s mom 🙂

Mayil is a spirited, 12, going on 13-year-old girl. Full of life, opinions, witty, mischievous, she just cannot be quiet. Mayil dreams of being a writer when she grows up – Mayilwriter, and her dad gets her a diary to practice her writing in and to try and be quiet.

‘Mayil will not be quiet’ transports you into the life of a pre-teen, in today’s world, which while being similar in emotions and feelings that we had while growing up, also has today’s distractions and problems that a child might face. Mayil’s sibling rivalry with her brother Tamarai, her love-hate relationship with him, her mother and father’s parenting styles, teenage emotions, crushes, friendships and disappointments – what a read it was. Mayil is smart, sensible, sensitive while being naughty, trying to test her boundaries when she can, even though she knows she shouldn’t be doing it. In other words, a normal pre-teen/almost teen. She was smart without being patronizing and understanding – her jottings on her grandfather’s love for her grandmother are so touching, and the way she over hears parents discussing a serious issue, and tries to do her bit, without making them aware that she knew. I wished I could hug her then. It took me back to my childhood, and in a way prepared me for whats coming up for me.

All the characters are fantastically etched. While I loved Mayil’s character, I just adored her mum. Such a sensible, pragmatic lady, and such a role model for Mayil. I especially loved the way she parented Mayil. Sensible, gave her space and was around when she needed her. So many issues that were brought up and addressed in a wonderfully sensible way. There was no shying away from issues like gender discrimination or sex education. The book was completely devoid of gender stereotypes – loved it! Mayil, also packs in a powerful punch, and Thamarai likes dolls – and why not! The best part was that the book really does feel as if it were a diary written by a 12-13 yr old. It feels so natural, not a note out of sync.. The illustrations were super cute too.

If I have a problem with the book, its just that it ended too quickly. The book left me yearning to know what happened next 🙂 I can only hope that they come out with sequels, because, I for one, haven’t had my fill of Mayil! Probably one of the very best books I’ve read in recent times. One that both children(above the age of 10 perhaps), and grown-ups can enjoy in equal measure – that’s not easy to achieve, is it?

Just have to add -Mayil and Thamarai – such imaginative names! Can I say that I loved the book – just one more time? Can’t wait for daughter to grow up to read this book!

Return to India by Shoba Narayan

Shoba Narayan’s memoir of her family’s Return to India process, after living in the US for about 20 years. I knew I had to read to read it as soon as I came across it. To add to it, Smita, heavily recommended it on one of my posts. I just had to get hold of it.

Shoba charts her journey from the time she first started to dream about going to America. Her parents are horrified at the idea, and try everything to stop her. Fate, finally, had it’s way, and she made her way to America as a student, with stars in her eyes, all set to live the American dream.

America gave her opportunities that she had dreamed about. She had come to America to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, but ended up a full-fledged art major trying to do a master’s in sculpture, For Shoba, this was the essence of America’s opportunities.

As Shoba immersed herself in America, she also develops close friendships with her fellow Indian students as well as her American friends. Living her new life, the experiences of being a student on grant in America, studying subjects that excited her, finding funding and help in the most unexpected places, washing dishes to make some money, Shoba is content. Somewhere down the line, she gets married – a traditional, arranged marriage to Ram.

From her happy existence in America, her perspective on living in America starts changing after she became a mother. She slowly started thinking about the ‘India Question’, with more and more of her friends and people around her talking seriously about moving back to India. The country that she had fought to leave, was now, beckoning to her. The culture and society that she had once tried to avoid, was the one she started trying very hard to inculcate in her daughter. There are some hilarious episodes mentioned of how hard she tried to make her daughter ‘Indian’. She calls herself a ‘born again Hindu’, when she drags her family to the temple, she had never before visited, or tried to wear a sari the whole day, for a month, just to make it familiar to her daughter. In her own way, trying to bring India or being Indian, closer to her American born and bred daughter.

While she was passionate about moving back, her husband Ram, was more resistant to the idea. He was less bothered about the parenting worries that Shoba had. She was quite worried about how to parent her daughter, the American influences worrying her tremendously, while her husband believed that with the right values, their daughter would be fine anywhere. They had their discussions, their disagreements, and their concurrence on the ‘India Question’. Finally, after a few years, things fell into place and they did indeed move to India.

So, how did I find it? I really enjoyed her perspective on life in America(or abroad anywhere, for that matter). Her observations of how people behave, some reject India completely, while others become born again Indians. The way she herself changed after her daughter was born, is quite interesting to read. In some places cliched – just the way, we have heard of NRIs behaving, and in some places interesting.

When I started reading this, I couldn’t help wonder if I would find similarities in my situation with what she recounts, but I have to say, her situation, and her reasons for moving back were quite different, so I did not really relate to her story much. It was just reading her story than reading a story that I could totally relate to. Probably because we had not lived abroad for so long, nor had we ever planned to live abroad. Returning to India was a given for us, rather than a ‘question’. Also parenting worries of the sort she had, somehow, does not bother me. Influences of all sorts, would be there in any society, in my opinion. My daughter’s childhood cannot be exactly the same as mine, even if I went back to the town I grew up in, and did everything my parents did. But that is entirely my opinion.

An interesting read, in some places very cliched, but pacy and gripping all the same. The way her priorities changed over the years with changes in her circumstances is very interesting to read. I would recommend it to anybody who likes memoirs although I think I enjoyed her first book – Monsoon Diary more. Would I recommend it to someone who is relocating/planning to relocate to India? I don’t know. Mainly because I could not relate to it at all, but perhaps if you are in a similar situation as her’s you might relate and enjoy it much more. Other than that, as a memoir, it is an interesting read.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Just when I think, I’ve read all of her books, I come across one more that I haven’t! And there is nothing that beats that feeling! I just love her books.

Delia Hopkins is happy, living in rural New Hampshire, with her daughter and fiancee and her widowed father who brought her up all by himself. She works as a search and rescue professional, assisted by her bloodhound. She has all that she holds dear, close by her, her daughter, father Andrew, fiance, Eric and close friend, Fitz. Her happy, peaceful is suddenly shattered when police lands up at her door step. Turns out that she had been kidnapped – by her own father. Everything she believed in seems to be a farce.

All she could do was ask Eric to defend her father. As the story unfolds, it throws Delia into the deep end. Everything she believed in, is now questioned. The father who was a devoted father turns out to be a kidnapper who stole her away from her own mother. What went wrong? What made her father do this – Are questions that haunt Delia. To add to it all, the mother she believed was dead, was very much alive. The mother who had been separated from her daughter for 28 years. Now a mother herself, Delia is in a tough position, of trying to believe the best of her dad, while trying to realign herself to the new truths that she discovers.

Typical of Picoult’s writings, the book handles situations that are emotionally tough, and makes the reader wonder how they would have handled such a situation. A tale of human weaknesses and reactions and relationships. Picoult spins tales that question boundaries. How far can a parent go to protect their child? Can anything justify the step, Andrew took. The characters are well formed, and the story grips you. A typical Jodi Picoult. I would definitely recommend it to Picoult fans.

About the Author
Picoult was born and raised in Nesconset on Long Island, New York. Her first story, at age 5 was “The Lobster Which Misunderstood.” She studied writing at Princeton University, graduating in 1987, and had two short stories published by Seventeen magazine while still in college. She is the best selling author with several best-sellers to her credit.