Pachinko: Min Jin Lee

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Pachinko is a beautifully written saga spanning five generations of a poor Korean family that moves to Japan.  Lee does a great job on many fronts.  The protagonists change as the story progresses, yet she does a remarkable job in keeping the characters distinctive.  She introduces the readers to Korean culture and the depressingly realistic picture of Koreans living in Japan.  Despite using an omniscent narration, she is able to let the readers  look into the characters’ heads.

A must read.

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World’s Best Boyfriend: Durjoy Datta

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The title was a fair warning, I must say.  However, Durjoy Datta is one of the most popular writers in India today, and I decided to read on.  It was a bad decision indeed.  A difficult-to-digest, strange, love-hate story between an angry young man (who, of course, has a legitimate reason to be angry) and a girl with a skin disease, that doesn’t make any sense at all.  This extreme love-hate thing doesn’t work for me.  How can you be so hateful one minute that you ruin reputations and careers and realize you are in love the next?  Even though Bollywood has done its best to tell us it’s possible, I still can’t buy it.  Any saving grace?  Two actually.  I liked Sanchit’s (our hero’s friend) dialogs that have a touch of humor.  And the moment in the book when the heroine meets Raghuvir (the requisite third angle to the story) and for the first time starts to feel good about herself.

Don’t even think about it.

Distant Dreams: Judith Pella and Tracie Peterson

 

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Distant Dreams is a pre civil-war story, set in the times of Andrew Jackson’s presidency.  The story is about Carolina, a fifteen-year-old girl with an unladylike interest in railroads and her unrequited love for James, her sister’s betrothed, who shares the same passion.  Despite the veneer of a novel about a woman’s ambitions in an era when such a thing was shunned, the novel is really about the romance between James and Carolina that follows the beaten path of romantic novels.  Misunderstandings, over reactions, vile business man dad with a sinister agenda, a cunning, scheming sister who wants her way always.  A dreadful read indeed.

Leave it alone.

Evicted: Matthew Desmond

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Evicted traces the struggles of a few poor families in Milwaukee going through the process of finding homes and getting evicted.  A case study on poverty in US.  I read the book with mixed feelings.  On one hand, coming from where I come from and doing what I do, these poorest of the poor still come off relatively privileged compared to people in Africa and South Asia.  On the other hand, the fact that such crippling, back-breaking poverty exists here – in the land of opportunities – comes as a shock.  The book is written very well, and reader’s involvement in the lives of Arleen, Lamar, the Hinkstons, and Scott is total, and their stories are likely to stay with you, long after you have finished reading.  The race angle is stark too.  That the poverty is a lot more prevalent amongst the blacks is also a nagging, troublesome truth.

Read.