15.5.19 Picks: 7 Books I've Read So Far In 2019

  Between my camera not working and feeling overwhelmed by social media, not to mention life ish, I haven't managed a way to consistently do the book blogging thing (or blogging in general for that matter). While I figure it out, let me give you the scoop about what I've read so far this year. Keep in mind that the following are my totally subjective opinions  and feel free to chime in if you have read any of these picks.

Golden Child
I wanted to like this book since it was written by a Trini author. Unfortunately, after reading it, I felt disappointed. Set in T&T, Golden Child is about a family grappling with the disappearance of a twin son who has an unidentified mental disability. The family's (the Deyalsingh's) treatment of this son is juxtaposed with the treatment of the other twin son who is intellectually gifted. The Deyalsingh's are also dealing with the dynamics of their extended family and personal encounters with crime. I appreciate that the author was trying to shed light on issues such as mental disability that remain taboo in Trini society. These topics could have made for a compelling story but the writer's delivery was not convincing to me. The author Claire Adam captured Trini dialect and settings fairly well but something seemed missing to me. In my opinion the plot, prose and characters could have been better developed. I was hoping to see a rich portrayal of Trinbagonian life, flaws and all but the story-telling felt flat.

The Perfect Nanny
From the first sentence, this diminutive novel is enthralling. The book begins with a chilling statement that a baby has been murdered and another child fatally injured. The suspenseful start immediately piqued my curiosity. Over the next chapters, a keen, layered exploration of human psyche and behaviour unfolded. The book, which is set in Paris, lays out the lives of two parents and their children’s nanny. Mired in their individual insecurities, the parents and nanny develop a codependent, complicated and ultimately dangerous relationship. There were several themes that I think the author Leila Slimani does a great job exploring. Among these, I found her look at motherhood/ parenthood in contemporary France poignant and thought provoking. Even though the subject matter was serious (and morbid at times), the beautiful prose and intriguing story telling made the book enjoyable 

American Spy
As soon as I read the description of American Spy, I was intrigued. Marie Mitchell is a black FBI agent in the 1980's who is tasked with sabotaging the revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, by seducing him. A black female spy in the Cold War Era who becomes involved with one of the most legendary Pan-African leaders?! Based on that premise, I was eager to buy the book and I'm so glad I did. The writing is seamless. The plot is filled with many twists and turns but in believable ways. The characters are well developed The protagonist is complex, a woman who is conflicted about her loyalties and is forced to make difficult choices in the face of sexism, racism and other challenges. She is such a complicated character, I still can't decide if I like her or not. I think that's just a sign of how good a job the author Lauren Wilkinson did. Another reason why American Spy resonated with me is that it presents an unusual representation of a black woman. It also shows connections among people in the African Diaspora in ways not often shown. Even though I'm usually reluctant to see movie adaptations of favourite books, I would  be delighted to see American Spy on the big screen. 

Even in fiction, topics like racism and family trauma, can be daunting. So it was refreshing to read a book that delved into such poignant topics in a funny but still touching way. The protagonist, Queenie, is a black British millennial of Caribbean heritage who's in the midst of relationship drama. Queenie goes through a series of messy situations partially due to unaddressed emotional pain. One of the many things I liked was that the author shows how the adult crises we find ourselves in tend to be combinations of circumstances outside of our control and the choices we make. I liked how nuanced Queenie is (as well as the other characters). There were moments when I cringed at Queenie's f-ups, recognising my younger self in her mistakes and feeling proud as she learned her lessons. Clearly, the storytelling got to me (in the best of ways). Queenie is one of the most relatable characters I've met in a book. From cover to cover, this work of fiction was a pleasant surprise. I can't wait for Candice Carty-Williams' next book.

The Third Life of Grange Copeland
Reading this book reminded me of how great a storyteller Alice Walker is. The legendary author penned the book before her Pulitzer Prize- winning The Color Purple. In fact, it was Alice Walker's debut novel. Here's the gist, Grange Copeland is a black sharecropper in Georgia whose life and the lives of those close to him are affected by racism and poverty. Seeking escape from his dismal life in the rural South, Grange flees to Harlem where he concludes that life there is no better for blacks. Grange chooses the devil he knows and returns to Georgia. He strives to redeem himself from the mistakes he made as a young man, in his parenting for example, by adopting his granddaughter. The relationship Grange nurtures with his granddaughter was my favourite aspect of the story. In addition to that, I liked how complex yet believable the characters are. Even though there are many intense topics to contemplate, Alice Walker weaves enough gentleness and love into the story that there seems to be a glimmer of hope. 

Home Fire
Set primarily in England but also hopping over to the US  and Pakistan, this book is about two families whose fates collide explosively. Members of these families juggle their Pakistani, Muslim and English identities and do so in very different, often conflicting ways.The author, Kamila Shamsie does a superb job of showing how such efforts can be painful and messy. I also liked the realness of the characters. Despite  this and initially liking the writing, the story became overwhelming especially towards the end. As the book progressed some of the events felt too contrived and over the top to me. With topics such as death, betrayal, politics and terrorism, I expected some sadness but several aspects of the story gave me the impression that author has tried too hard to achieve the shock factor.

The Proposal
After a few books that were pretty heavy in terms of subject matter, I was ready to immerse myself in a feel good story. The Proposal is precisely that. It is a fun, romantic comedy set in LA. The main character Nikole Paterson is a freelance writer who receives a marriage proposal she doesn't want at a baseball game. A stranger,  Carlos Ibara and his sister help Nik escape a stadium full of spectators who aren't too thrilled about her response to said proposal. Her encounter with Carlos leads to a casual rebound but they develop deeper feelings for each other. I sometimes hesitate from reading rom-coms due to thinking that they may not be well written. Au contraire, I thoroughly enjoyed The Proposal. I thought it was sweet without being too sappy; sexy without feeling empty. The characters were convincing and so was the storyline.This cute, light hearted book was the perfect pick-me-up. I read it all in one night, happy to see a happy ending for a change.

So that's my round-up of some of the books I've read this year!  Comment below  with your feed-back if you've read any of these. I would like to hear your thoughts. 

Photography Credit: Kyeon Constant

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