Friday, January 12, 2018

#BookReview: THE PERFECT NANNY by Leila Slimani

Synopsis: When Myriam, a mother and brilliant French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work, she and her husband are forced to look for a caretaker for their two young children. They are thrilled to find Louise: the perfect nanny right from the start.

Louise sings to the children, cleans the family’s beautiful apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late whenever asked, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on each other, jealousy, resentment, and frustrations mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.

Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a riveting exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, and motherhood—and the debut in America of an immensely talented writer.

Review: The Perfect Nanny is delightfully creepy read you won't want to put down once you start it. Told mostly from the points of view of Myriam and Louise, it's the story of how everything goes right until it goes wrong, except the book starts with exactly what went wrong and when. The rewind effect works here because there's no spoiler waiting for you at the end. You know upfront what you're up against and if you choose to keep reading, that's on you.

The author goes into a lot of detail about what Louise looked like, much more so than any other character. We know Myriam is French-Morrocan, but we're never told Paul's race or nationality. But Louise is white, not just white but porcelain white. She's a small dainty woman, fastidious in how she dresses and presents herself. She prepares meals, the children love her, she gives Myriam and Paul their pre-children lives back. She is, as the title says, the perfect nanny.

Paul's interactions with Louis are interesting because it seems he sees the cracks in her porcelain facade long before Myriam does, which isn't surprising. While Paul has always had the freedom of escaping the house daily to go work, Myriam has spent the last few years at home with the children. Wouldn't you avoid looking at what was directly in front of you if it meant you could continue to pursue the career you missed so much?

Because the reader already knows how the story ends from page one, it's not too shocking when we finally come to the scene of the crime. I appreciate the author taking time to go beyond that scene and telling us what happened next, though I would have liked more follow up on Paul and Myriam. The Perfect Nanny is the perfect read for those who love plot twists and creepy little women.

240 p.
Published: January 2018
Purchase: The Perfect Nanny: A Novel

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

#BookReview: SUMMERTIME by Adrienne Thompson

Synopsis: J'Nay Walker is a talented singer, driven toward success by a promise she made to her late mother. One gloomy day, on the tail of some disappointing news, tragedy strikes, threatening not only to derail her plans, but to end her life. As a result, she soon finds herself on an unlikely journey, but is she ready for an unlikely love?

Review: The saying good things come in small packages could not be truer when it comes to Adrienne Thompson's Summertime.  Set in present day Arkansas, our protagonist is a waitress at her family's restaurant by day and an aspiring songbird by night. The restaurant, started by her grandmother in the 30s, is run by her no nonsense aunt who also allows J'Nay and her cousin to live in the boarding house the same grandmother started.

A freak accident at work sends J'Nay from 2015 Little Rock, Arkansas to 1930s New Orleans. Similar to The Wiz, J'Nay (now known as Junie) meets characters that look like her family and friends, but they have different names and occupations. One person in particular strikes her fancy, a young Dizzy Gillespie. So while Junie isn't quite sure how she traveled back in time and why she's there, she's grateful for every minute she spends with the young musician and her family and friends.

This is my first read from Thompson and she packs a lot into 104 pages, but it's all quality. In a short time, she gives readers multi-dimensional characters, well thought out story lines and a thirst for more of her work. I happened to catch Summertime while it was free last week, but I would have gladly paid for it had I known I would love it as much as a I did.

104 p.
Published: June 2015
Purchase: Summertime (A Novella)

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Books Coming Your Way, January 2 & 9, 2018

Mouths Don't Speak by Katia D. Ulysse
224 p.; Fiction

No one was prepared for the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, taking over a quarter-million lives, and leaving millions more homeless. Three thousand miles away, Jacqueline Florestant mourns the presumed death of her parents, while her husband, a former US Marine and combat veteran, cares for their three-year-old daughter as he fights his own battles with acute PTSD.

Horrified and guilt-ridden, Jacqueline returns to Haiti in search of the proverbial "closure." Unfortunately, the Haiti she left as a child twenty-five years earlier has disappeared. Her quest turns into a tornado of deception, desperation, and more death. So Jacqueline holds tightly to her daughter--the only one who must not die.

A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee
288 p.; Fiction

In this stunning novel, prize-winning author Neel Mukherjee wrests open the central, defining events of our century: displacement and migration. Five characters, in very different circumstances—from a domestic cook in Mumbai, to a vagrant and his dancing bear, to a girl who escapes terror in her home village for a new life in the city—find out the meanings of dislocation and the desire for more.

Set in contemporary India and moving between the reality of this world and the shadow of another, this novel of multiple narratives—formally daring, fierce, but full of pity—delivers a devastating and haunting exploration of the unquenchable human urge to strive for a different life.

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
240 p.; Fiction

When Myriam, a mother and brilliant French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work, she and her husband are forced to look for a caretaker for their two young children. They are thrilled to find Louise: the perfect nanny right from the start. Louise sings to the children, cleans the family’s beautiful apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late whenever asked, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on each other, jealousy, resentment, and frustrations mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a riveting exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, and motherhood—and the debut in America of an immensely talented writer.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
400 p.; Fiction

Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.

Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X—meaning she probably couldn’t even read the document. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are
in further danger.

The Boat People by Sharon Bala
352 p.; Fiction

When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and five hundred fellow refugees from Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war reaches Vancouver’s shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the “boat people” are members of a separatist militant organization responsible for countless suicide attacks—and that these terrorists now pose a threat to Canada’s national security. As the refugees become subject to heavy interrogation, Mahindan begins to fear that a desperate act taken in Sri Lanka to fund their escape may now jeopardize his and his son’s chance for asylum.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Mahindan; his lawyer, Priya, a second-generation Sri Lankan Canadian who reluctantly represents the refugees; and Grace, a third-generation Japanese Canadian adjudicator who must decide Mahindan’s fate as evidence mounts against him, The Boat People is a spellbinding and timely novel that provokes a deeply compassionate lens through which to view the current refugee crisis.