Based on the books I read this month, I recommend that you read the following books.

Lowland:

Lowland by Jumpa Lahiri, also the author of The Namesake, is a Pulitzer Prize winning national best seller fiction. In this book, the author has weaved in a brilliant story that sets in a place near Calcutta.

Two brothers named Udayan and Subhash grow up as friends during the time the Naxalite movement erupts in Silguri that borders with Nepal. As the days go by, Subhash leaves India for the USA to pursue a PhD. in Physics, while Udayan, who is more drawn to the Naxalite uprising, remains in India and secretly joins the movement.  He wants to uproot the bourgeois society that has been oppressing the poor.

After the police kill him, the story takes a different turn. There come cultural values and social beliefs into play when Subhash decides to marry his brother’s pregnant wife who has become a widow now.

In the novel, many stories are attached to different characters, but the stories are weaved in a single story as if all of them demand to be unpacked. The reader cannot help flipping through the pages. There are a lot of interesting twists and turns where two families, two societies, two countries, and two geographical boundaries merge. The reader continues to expect what will be next, or to wonder what other character might be doing while reading every other chapter.

I am not going to very specific here because I do not want to spoil the joy the readers would get by reading the novel on their own. The book makes the reader like, hate, cry, laugh, and take a challenge along with the characters.

At times, the story does not go the way one might expect and the reader might find it jarring. I was, as a reader, at times, expecting more about the Naxalite movement and how the death of Udayan would be justified, but I really do not find the justification. Similarly, I feel some of the stories could be shortened, making them much tenser, just by giving a bit of summary.  

Overall, this novel is not only a story between two cultures, two/three generations, but also a history of political movement in India, and the lives affected by the movement.

This is a novel of family saga.

Evicted:

Evicted is another Pulitzer Prize winning non-fiction book by Matthew Desmond, Princeton Sociologist ad MacArthur “Genius.” This is a well-researched book put in a harrowing story of American families, mostly people of color, in poverty. It reveals the hidden side of poverty in America. The author paints a picture of that society via words and description that come out live, vivid, and disturbing.

 I cannot help but sympathize with the situations of people in poverty. The book helps us better understand what poverty is in American society. The book specifically provides a few-years-ago scenario of Milwaukee in Wisconsin and brings that society out to the readers just like that.

The writing, the description, the dialogue, the scenarios come out so live that the readers immerse themselves into the writing and description.  

Yambuner:

This is a collection of short stories by Nepali author Bina Theeng. In the title, Yambu-ner, Yambu is Kathmandu and “Ner” refers to nearby so the title suggests “the area nearby Kathmandu.”

A collection of 13 stories, the book Yambuner brings out life styles, social and cultural lives of ethnic communities that live in and around the Kathmandu valley, meaning communities of Yambuner. Addressing the communities that have been ignored for many years, including their cultures, their voices, their dialogues and the beauty of the marginalized, Theeng has done a brilliant job by bringing all those characters into life, letting them talk to each other, dress up in their own style, talk in their own language, and do their own chores. 

All the stories carry lessons and end with a theme that reader will be fully delighted and enlightened. Most of the stories are weaved in the themes of love, jealousy, culture, religion, duty, and the beauty of their own community. A philosophical touch at times is a cliff hanger of the stories for the readers to hang on even after they are done with the stories. 

There are a very few moments, as a reader I think, where the author could have addressed effectively in terms of providing specific dates and years and also avoided some repetitions of a few names and words, but they actually do not deter the beauty of the stories. I recommend those of you who understand the Nepali language that you read.

The Discomfort of Evening:

This is an International Booker Prize winning novel by Dutch novelist Marieke Lucas Rijneveld. The author is the youngest to receive this prize. The novel is about a Dutch farm girl and her Christian family. Told from a 10 year old child’s perspective, the story brings a lot of psychological states into play.

Written so thoroughly and descriptively, the novel grabs the reader’s attention and lets the reader know a lot about the existing location, practices, and religious beliefs. There are so many places in the book Christian quotes are brought into play.

The narrator clearly depicts how the family goes through pains after they lose her brother, their son, and, throughout the story, the narrator wonders if it was not her curse that caused her brother’s death. There are some moments where odds and eccentrics are elaborately described and some readers might find uncomfortable or just not interested in it.

Also the biblical quotes frequently cited might not interest certain readers, but the countryside lives, the animals in the barn, and the very raw description are powerful, evoking, and vivid.

Books reviewed by Tulasi Acharya

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