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The Namesake Jhumpa LahiriThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies established this young writer as one the most brilliant of her generation. Her stories are one of the very few debut works — and only a handful of collections — to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Among the many other awards and honors it received were the New Yorker Debut of the Year award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the highest critical praise for its grace, acuity, and compassion in detailing lives transported from India to America. In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail — the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase — that opens whole worlds of emotion.

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. The New York Times has praised Lahiri as “a writer of uncommon elegance and poise.” The Namesake is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity.

The blurb writer for this book isn’t doing a good job of selling it but then maybe I’m not the blurb writer’s targeted audience. PW calls the writing spare but I thought this review which mixed personal experience with the reading of the novel was interesting.  Some researchers say that good fiction teaches us empathy and a greater understanding of cultures, mores, and just people who aren’t familiar to us.

After finishing the Namesake, my thoughts were drawn to my last roommate in college, an Indian woman studying for her PHD in Psychology. When I first moved in, she had just broken up with her white boyfriend. “It never would have worked out anyway…” she had cried. By the end of that same year she was flying of to Houston to be wed to a man she had only seen once, a marriage arranged by their parents. Many nights my other roommate (an exchange student from Berlin) and I would sit out on the balcony smoking cigarettes and marveling at the concept of an arranged marriage in the new millennium. This book made me understand her a little bit better, her choice in marriage and other aspects of our briefly shared lives, like: her putting palm oil in her hair, the massive Dutch oven that was constantly blowing steam, or her mother living with us for 3 months.

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Birth of Venus      by     Sarah DunantBirth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:

Overview
Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities.

But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

I don’t know much about Dunant as an author other than she’s a favorite historical author of someone I know (no one here at Dear Author) so I added this deal for those who enjoy historical fiction.

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Sweet Hell on Fire: A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In      by     Sara LunsfordSweet Hell on Fire by Sara Lunsford. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

I was a bad mother,
a bad daughter,
a bad wife, a bad friend.
Boozed out and tired,
with no dreams and no future.

But I was a good officer.

Sara Lunsford helped cage the worst of the worst, from serial killers to sex criminals. At the end of every day, when she walked out the prison gate, she had to try to shed the horrors she witnessed. But the darkness invaded every part of her life, no matter how much she tried to immerse herself in a liquor bottle. She couldn’t hide from the things that hurt her, the things that made her bleed, the things that still rise up in the dark and choke her.

With a magnetic, raw voice that you won’t soon forget, Sweet Hell on Fire grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s a hardscrabble climb from rock bottom to the new ground of a woman who understands the meaning of sacrifice, the joy of redemption, and the quiet haven to be found in hope.

From PW- “With a gritty, raw, and engrossing voice, debut author Lunsford splays out the facts of her dramatic life as a corrections officer at an all-male maximum security state prison. She’s separated from her husband and living in her parents’ house with her two girls when she accepts a job at a corrections facility that makes the TV show Lockup look tame.”

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Entry Level Mistress Sabrina DarbyEntry Level Mistress by Serena Darby. $ .99.

From the Jacket Copy:

Daniel Hartmann and Emily Anderson have every reason to hate each other. Her father destroyed the lives of his parents and he in turn sent her father to jail. Now Daniel’s a successful billionaire and artsy Emily is his newest employee. Both of them intend to make the other pay for the sins of the past, but revenge has never been so sweet.

Dabney reviewed this for Dear Author. She liked 80% of the book but really had a problem with a late plot twist and the resolution:

I was entertained by the first 80% of this novel. When I saw the promo on the cover–A young artist. A ruthless billionaire. A passionate revenge.–I was sure I’d hate it and that it would be indistinctively dull. Instead, I liked it and it felt fairly fresh. Emily’s narration is smart, sassy, and plausibly filled with doubt about her choices. Daniel isn’t an alphahole; he too questions what he’s doing, whether he’s being fair to Emily, whether he’s behaving unforgivably to his other employees. They are a fun couple to read.

Ms. Darby does an excellent job of infusing her prose with palpable sexual tension. I like the way sex is described in this book: it’s hot, not crude, and offers just enough detail.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

2 Comments

  1. Lori
    May 12, 2013 @ 12:08:19

    Sara Lunsford is also Saranna DeWylde who has a number of erotic titles and erotic/comedic titles. She’s quickly becoming one of my must read authors.

  2. Jinni
    May 12, 2013 @ 19:12:50

    I enjoyed The Namesake, for the most part. At its best it was an immigrant experience story. On the other hand, it suffered the same fate as many so-called ‘literary’ publications. Great writing, not very good storytelling.

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