Book Review | The Milk Lady of Bangalore by Shoba Narayan

Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 23rd 2018
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
If you’ve been to my blog before, you’d probably know that I’m a immense fan of nonfiction that have a travel aspect to them. Shoba Narayan’s latest book, The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure is an interesting twist on the usual “travel” story as it’s partly about her experience living with her family as expats (of sorts) in India. I say “of sorts” because while she and her husband actually were born and raised in India, her two daughters were not. Instead they were born in the USA, and part of the reason that Shoba and her husband decided to move back to India was to give their girls the chance to truly get to know their grandparents and family in India before it was too late.

I started this review talking about the author and her family and their move, but The Milk Lady of Bangalore is at its core truly a book about the history, economy and religion of India. Using the “cow” as a “lens” the author dissects Indian society and culture and the reason why an ordinary (to us Westerners) animal  is still so revered in India. I definitely learned a great deal about what life is like for those actually living in India in addition to the communities that are formed in a country that’s still more collectivist than it is individualistic. Furthermore, it was incredibly fascinating to read about all the beliefs and rituals surrounding cows in India which while rapidly becoming more modern still holds on tight to numerous ideologies and superstitions that are connected to the country’s agricultural history.

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure teaches us readers that we should appreciate what we are fortunate to have. In writing The Milk Lady of Bangalore, Shoba also shows how just by investing in one person you can end up making an enormous difference for several more people. The times are without a doubt changing, but what remains the same is the concept of life and death and if you are able to help just one person and bond with them thereupon making everything all the more sweeter.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

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Book Review | Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Authour:
Gabrielle Zevin
Format:
E-galley
Publication date:
August 22nd 2017
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I adored Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and was intrigued by the synopsis of Young Jane Young as it focuses on the relationships between mothers and daughters.

Young Jane Young is told through multiple perspectives, starting with the mother of the titular “Jane” who is actually Aviva Grossman, a former intern who had an affair with the Florida congressman she worked for. Afterwards, we are filled in on what happened to Aviva now going by the name, “Jane’s” before moving on to the perspective of Embeth, the congressman’s wife. I also liked that we see how Jane’s decisions still have an impact on her life several years later. And it’s interesting how the author chooses to have the last chapter in the book be styled in a Choose Your Own Adventure manner as it gives the reader greater insight into “Jane’s” thought process when she was younger. However, this was a bit confusing at first as I was reading an e-galley copy and couldn’t turn the pages, though I eventually realized that it wasn’t actually a chapter where the reader is actually given the opportunity to “choose” what happens as “Jane” has already made her choices.

It’s wonderful to have women be the dominant voice in this kind of political narrative for once, and Zevin does an excellent job of making each woman feel like a real person that the reader can empathize with. An engrossing, and a surprisingly empowering read at times, Young Jane Young takes the refreshing approach of focusing on the women who are affected by a political scandal making it equal parts entertaining and enlightening.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Last Days at Café Leila by Donia Bijan


cafeAuthour:

Donia Bijan
Format:
ARC, 289 pages
Publication date:
April 18th 2017
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m a huge foodie, which was why Donia Bijan’s The Last Days of Café Leila  appealed to me. That, plus the cover is gorgeous!

Set in a post-revolutionary Iran in the city of Tehran, The Last Days of Café is a story that is told across time and through three generations of a family through the use of flashbacks and character recollections with the titular cafe being the one stable presence throughout. We follow Noor as she returns to Iran to her ailing father and his failing cafe after being gone for so long after being sent to the USA by her father for her “protection”. As a result of her return, the reader starts to learn more about her family’s tragic past, and the difficult decisions that her father Zod, was required to make.

The prose throughout this book was incredibly beautiful, as evident from the descriptions of Iran and all the food that was being prepared. The authour’s background in the culinary arts have truly shone in this book, as all the food description made my mouth water. On top of that, the book made me wish that there was an actual Café Lelia that I could visit as I would love to visit Iran if such a place as Café Lelia existed there.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was just how powerful it was. I love the fact that it was a story of a family falling apart and eventually coming together in addition to being a story of great loss (and perhaps greater love, and not just the romantic type). My heart truly broke as I read about what actually happened to Noor’s mother, and how Zod had kept the truth to himself for all these years in order to protect his children.

A poignant and emotionally powerful tale, The Last Days of Café Leila is a book that compelled me to stop and appreciate the family I have. It also taught me so much about the immigrant and the student experience in the USA, as well as the history of Iran and how its history shaped it into the country it is today. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy rich family sagas and books that feature food.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.