Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Don't Let Him Know by Sandip Roy

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):  In a boxy apartment building in an Illinois university town, Romola Mitra, a newly arrived young bride, anxiously awaits her first letter from home in India. When she accidentally opens the wrong letter, it changes her life. Decades letter, her son Amit finds that letter and thinks he has discovered his mother's secret. But secrets have their own secrets sometimes.

Amit does not know that Avinash, his dependable and devoted father, has been timidly visiting gay chat rooms, driven by the lifelong desires he never allowed himself to indulge. Avinash, for his part, doesn't understand what his dutiful wife gave up in marrying him -- the memories of romance she keeps tucked away.

Growing up in Calcutta, in a house bustling with feisty grandmothers, Amit has been shielded from his parents' secrets. Now he's a successful computer engineer, settled in San Franscisco yet torn between his new life and his duties to the one he left behind.

Moving from adolescent rooftop games to adult encounters in gay bars, from hair salons in Calcutta to McDonald's drive-thrus in California, Don't Let Him Know is an unforgettable story about family and the sacrifices we make for those we love. Tender, funny, and beautifully told, it marks the arrival of a resonant new voice.

And here's what I thought:   This was one of those stories that sometimes made me smile, and sometimes get a lump in my throat in the next chapter.  As you can see from the summary, many of the characters have secrets in this story.   The characters were all pretty clear, although I admit that I sometimes had to remind myself who was who.   This is because the timeline in the book isn't in a straight line; you go back and forth at times, and the viewpoints change between the characters. While I didn't feel a strong connection with all of the characters, their stories were all compelling. This is an interesting story of how choices sometimes get made for us, and we have to deal with the consequences.  

First lines:  "Ma," said Amit, "I have to talk to you about something."  Dinner was over.  Romola and Amit were alone in the kitchen.  She was putting away the leftovers while Amit wiped the kitchen counters.  June was upstairs with Neel and his homework.  The last traces of a California evening still dappled the neighbourhood in tranquil honeyed light.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):   An amazing talent makes her debut with this stylish psychological thriller—with the compelling intrigue of The Silent Wife and Turn of Mind and the white-knuckle pacing of Before I Go to Sleep —in which a woman suffering from bipolar disorder cannot remember if she murdered her friend during a breakdown.

Dana Catrell is horrified to learn she was the last person to see her neighbor Celia alive. Suffering from a devastating mania, a result of her bipolar disorder, Dana finds that there are troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia's death. As evidence starts to point in her direction, Dana struggles to clear her name before her own demons win out.

Is murder on her mind - or is it all in her head?

The closer she comes to piecing together shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again? A story of marriage, murder and madness, The Pocket Wife explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge.

And here's what I thought:  I picked up a galley of this book at the ALA Midwinter conference on Saturday, opened it on the train ride home, and finished it this morning.   Can you tell I had a hard time putting it down?   I found I kept turning the pages, worried for the main character, and wondering what would happen by the end of the book.

As you can see from the summary, Dana is a woman who has issues, and this makes her into a somewhat unreliable narrator.  At times, you have a difficult time telling if something is really happening or is in her mind.  I also felt like I couldn't quite get to know her well as a character, like I was seeing her out of the corner of my eye, but never complete and in focus.   However, I found that I enjoyed that, and how it kept me feeling a bit off balance throughout the story.   It's hard to tell what's real, and who might be telling the truth or lying, and combined with the steady pace, it made for a great thriller.

I do not have any personal experience with bipolar disorder, so I cannot speak to how accurately Dana's character is portrayed.  However, she felt real enough to me that I worried about her, and felt like at times, I was on edge right with her.  I can't say that I really liked her as a character, but I did feel sympathetic towards her.   I actually don't feel it necessary to like characters; what I need is to find them interesting, or the story interesting.   In this story, the off-balance quality that seemed to be careening steadily towards falling off the edge completely kept me reading.

First lines:  The ambulance is still miles away when Dana awakens to the near dark of evening.  It wails ribbon-thin in the smog over the highway as she opens her eyes where she lies sprawled across her couch in a suburb of Paterson, a stone's throw from Manhattan but in a different world entirely.  She wakes to a headache throbbing at the backs of her lids, a library book lying beside her.  She sits up and reaches for the book, marking her place with a tiny corner fold, giving it a little pat as she sets it on the coffee table.
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