How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway – Mini Review

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway
Published by Putnam Adult, an imprint of Penguin

So I adored this book, but I borrowed it from the library in January and never wrote my review, and since then I read another book, Picking Bones from Ash by Marie Mockett, that also involves multiple generations of Japanese/Japanese-American women, including a daughter returning to Japan. Long story short, I no longer have enough to say about this book to give it an actual review. However, I do want to share it with you, because I felt that if I do not, I will be doing you a disservice. So let me just say I really enjoyed Dilloway’s writing and storytelling, and I thought she handled the voices of the different women very well.

Now, let me just leave you with the publisher’s description:

How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn’t been what she’d expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways. Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah – Book Review

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, translated by Geoffrey Strachan
Published by Graywolf Press

In 1944, the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is somewhat removed from the rest of the world, enough that a nine year-old boy would not know that the rest of the world had been embroiled in a bitter war. Of course, even without knowledge of the war, Raj has a very painful life of his own, growing up in a small, poor village with a violently alcoholic father, and losing his two brothers to a storm. His life is difficult enough that things actually seem to be looking up with Raj is hospitalized at the prison his father works for – the only hospital facility around – and meets David. Raj doesn’t understand why David and so many other light skinned men and women are imprisoned, on Mauritius the white men are the ones who are in charge, not the ones found in prison. Regardless, though, he and David are immediate friends, more like brothers, really.

The Last Brother is framed from the modern-day adult perspective of Raj, and we know almost immediately that something tragic happened during his time with David, although it is only through his recollection of the past that we discover exactly what it was. This is a rather short book – less than 200 pages – but it is so richly evocative of place and emotion that it feels just as meaty as something twice as long. Having Raj frame the story as an adult lends the more reflective and retrospective feel that is really crucial to this story, while still allowing the narration of Raj as a nine year-old to be authentic.

Besides being very well written and translated, The Last Brother gives the reader a peek at a story of World War II that most of us have never read, that of the 1500 European Jews who were turned away from Palestine and detained as illegal immigrants on Mauritius for years. More information about this historical reality can be found in Nathacha Appanah’s interview with Tablet Magazine.

Don’t let the slim volume fool you, The Last Brother is a powerful novel that packs a huge emotional punch. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound | Amazon*

Source: Publisher, for BOOK CLUB.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka – Bookstore Review

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
Published by Mariner Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

It seems like every time I turn around, my bookseller friend Margie is beating me to the punch by reading a book that I’m dying to read. It makes for a lot of “oh my gosh you haven’t read (insert fabulous book here) yet? You have GOT to read it!” Then I usually buy a copy, but it on my personal TBR pile, and fail to get to it.

With “A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True,” I am both ahead of and behind Margie. I was the first of the two of us to buy the book from The Bookstore, the first to realize that Brigid Pasulka was herself a Chicagoan (she teaches at a fairly prestigious Chicago Public School), and actually the one to suggest it to Margie a couple of weeks ago when nothing she had at home was catching her eye. And yet, Margie was the first of the two of us to read and review it.

The one nice thing about Margie reading a book before me is that I sincerely trust her recommendation and, depending on what she tells me, I can either move a book up on my list, or demote it. Based on her review today, “A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True” is a book that I am absolutely going to have to bump up towards the top of my list.

So please, definitely check out Margie’s fabulous review, and think about heading out and grabbing a copy of “A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True” by Brigid Pasulka yourself. Maybe we can do a readalong and force me to get going on it!

“A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True” by Brigid Pasulka, reviewed by Margie from The Bookstore in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Brigid Pasulka’s website


The Report by Jessica Francis Kane – Book Review

The Report by Jessica Francis Kane
Published by Graywolf Press

In 1943, a shelter in Bethnal Green, London became the site of the largest civilian accident of World War II. Citizens of Bethnal Green, anticipating a retaliatory air strike, crowded into the station. Before 9pm, 173 of them were dead, although the Germans did not bomb London that night. After the accident, there was much finger-pointing in many directions: from the lack of light and the late arrival of the constable to the general existence of Jewish refugees. In order to quell unrest, the government appoints the young and popular local magistrate, Laurence Dunne, to conduct a private investigation. He works with surprising speed to create a report he hopes will mend the broken ties of the city in general and Bethnal Green in particular.

When I picked up “The Report,” I expected a competent novelization of a fascinating historical event and mystery. I also expected the account to be somewhat dry, if interesting, based both on the less than titilating title and the fact that it is essentially the story of how a governmental report came to be. Still, I was interested enough in the Bethnal Green tragedy, of which I had never heard before, to give it a go.

How wrong I was to be expecting something dry!

Kane takes an ensemble cast of characters and manages to make all of their stories compelling, without spending so much time on character development that she loses the thread of the story. A major element in this success is the inclusion of a secondary storyline, that of a documentary film maker – who has his own ties to the tragedy – who contacts Dunne to enlist his help in a documentary that will memorialize the 30th anniversary of Dunne’s report. This storyline serves as a nice foil to the primary storyline,  moving events along and explaining what is necessary, without being overly expository.

“The Report” is a surprisingly compelling novel about a seemingly unlikely subject. A fabulous read if you are at all curious to explore history and human nature. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher for review.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.