#74 ~ Love Marriage

May 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, LibraryThing, Reading | 9 Comments
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Cover for Love Marriage

Love Marriage by V. V. Ganeshananthan

This debut novel tells the story of Yalini, a young woman who was born in the United States to parents who grew up in Sri Lanka. What makes her parents special is that they had a Love Marriage. They fell in love and decided to marry on their own. Their relationship was not Proper in that family did not make the arrangements for them. Because of this, there was heartache, albeit short-lived due to the distance, for both families. Yalini’s maternal uncle Kumaran went so far as to confront Yalini’s father’s family. When Kumaran comes to the Canada with terminal cancer, Yalini confronts the past not only of her family, but of Sri Lanka as well.

Before reading this novel, I knew very little about Sri Lanka. Learning about the history of this small nation was the most interesting part of this novel. Although I very much remember the terrible tsunami which hit there very recently, I was very interested in history that has taken place in Jaffna. I found the story relating to the Tamil Tigers very interesting and I plan to read more about them on my own.

Overall, I found the prose to be very self-conscious. I always felt the author’s presence and because of that, I never got lost in what could have been an engrossing story. I believe that this story would have flowed so beautifully if it were allowed free from Ganeshananthan’s tight control over style.

Despite the issues I had with the writing, this book is an example of what can make reading fiction so powerful – igniting a reader’s desire to learn about someone or something new. Encouraging personal growth is no small accomplishment. I would recommend this novel to anyone who might be interested in Sri Lanka, most specifically about the Tamil Tigers.

To buy this book, click here.

#59 ~ Gardens of Water

February 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, LibraryThing, Religion, Sexual Identity | 9 Comments
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Gardens of Water: A Novel by Alan Drew

Gardens of Water tells the story of how the lives of a working class, conservative Muslim family from outside of Istanbul were impacted by the horrible earthquake of 1999. Sinan Basioglu, a hard-working man with a club foot, tries to do his best by his family and keep close to his God. Circumstances force them to take shelter in a relief camp established by Christian Americans. This time spent at the camp is most especially confusing to İrem, Sinan and Nilüfer’s 15-year-old daughter. Living in the camp provides her with a freedom she hasn’t known since her early childhood. When she falls in love with Dylan, the teenage son of an American expatriate teacher, the entire Basioglu family is caused to question who they are and what is expected from them.

It’s interesting to me how there are times when two or three books I read in a row carry a similar thread. Gardens of Water, although it takes place in the Middle East, continued my thoughts on the plight of women in society. In The Tea Rose, Fiona struggled against the prevailing prejudice that women are not capable to and should not run businesses. The female characters in The Witch’s Trinity were accused of witchcraft when life became hard because of the Judeo-Christian prejudices against them that began with Eve’s first bite of that apple in the Garden of Eden. For a Muslim girl like İrem, a simple school girl crush could threaten to ruin her family name and negatively impact her younger brother’s future. For many women, life is not all that more safe today than it was back in the time of the witch trials.

Alan Drew’s debut novel is rich in its details about life in Turkey and about what it feels like and means to be Muslim. I found this especially true in his descriptions of the scenery. I felt like I saw Istanbul from a distance and could feel the water over my toes. The scene where Sinan was carrying televisions on his back as he tried to hustle through the streets of Instanbul was probably my favorite. Not only did I feel Sinan’s desperation, I felt his isolation as a Kurd in Turkish society. If you are interested in Kurdish culture, the family life of modern conservative Muslims, or are just looking for an involving book to read, I strongly suggest Gardens of Water.

To buy this novel, click here.

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