“Perhaps they had grasped that the doors could not be closed, and new doors would continue to open, and they had understood that the denial of coexistence would have required one party to cease to exist, and the extinquishing party too would have been transformed in the process, and too many native parents would not after have been able to look their children in the eye, to speak with head held high of what their generation had done.” – Mohsin Hamid, Exit West
We are very happy members of the Book of the Month Club. (There is an affiliate link in this post, but the post is not sponsored. We happily pay for our books each month.) Book of the Month Club gives subscribers a chance to pick one of 5 hand-picked books each month for 15.99. You can also pick an additional 2 books for 9.99 each. The selections were so good for March that we each picked a different book.
Jackie’s Pick – Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
I have so many thoughts about Exit West by Mohsin Hamid but, I am not sure how to express them all. I am not even sure that I can express them coherently. This is not a long book but it doesn’t need to be to make a profound statement about the world that we live in. Part love story, part melancholy of a war-torn world, and part surrealism, this story will carry the reader through a rainbow of emotions before the end.
The story begins in an unnamed country ravaged by war where sweet Saeed and Fiercely independent Nadia meet and fall in love. However, their relationship moves to a new level of intimacy when Nadia moves in with Saeed’s family. The country is no longer safe for women alone. Soon, the couple hear about doors that can transport you out of one country and instantly to another, safer place. They endeavor to find a door and leave to country together.
The story follows Saeed and Nadia as the move from country to country in search of a safe place to start their future together. The book’s emotional journey was incredibly vivid. I felt the pain of leaving family with the poignant words “When we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” (Mohsin Hamid). I also felt the pain of the love lost between Nadia and Saeed. The “what ifs” and the unknown forever following them. Perhaps it was the all too real glimpse of what our world can become, that left me loving and hating the book at the same time. The real doors in this story are those that provide the glimpses into ourselves and the reality we may not want to see.
“Death by fire was the right death for visionaries and mad-women, and Zelda was both. My dark double.” – Caite Dolan-Leach, Dead Letters
Kirsten’s Pick – Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
Where to begin with this thrilling story? I loved just about everything in this A-to-Z mystery. The dark, twisted plot of Dead Letters begins when Ava returns home to deal with the death of her twin, Zelda, in a barn fire. The story immediately launches into a few mysteries. First, and the most easily solved, why did Ava flee the family vineyard for Paris 2 years ago? Second, is Zelda really dead?
This literary debut kept me guessing the whole time! I loved the way the story laid out – part flashbacks of the twins life, part sleuthing, part messed-up love story. This debut novel was everything I was hoping it would be. Even though I couldn’t stand them, the Antipova family had me enthralled. Alcoholics all, this family is a train wreck. Ava, an emotional recluse, is dealing with a mother with dementia, a father who abandoned her, and a drugged-up sister whose death was either suicide, homicide, an accident or faked. She was pretty much drunk the entire novel as she attempted to discover what happened to Zelda. The tragic history of this family unfolded throughout the book. I saw a clearer picture of why Ava and Zelda acted the way they did. The book was immersive and I simply couldn’t put it down. A great story for those that liked Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive and Girl on the Train.Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Published by Penguin on March 7th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Political, Cultural Heritage, Literary
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Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
“It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… At once terrifying and … oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman, The New York Times Book Review
“A breathtaking novel…[that] arrives at an urgent time.” –NPR.org
“Moving, audacious, and indelibly human.” –Entertainment Weekly, “A” rating
As featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, in the Skimm, on Fresh Air, and elsewhere, an astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands.
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .
Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
Published by Random House Publishing Group on February 21st 2017
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Thrillers, Suspense, Contemporary Women
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A missing woman leads her twin sister on a twisted scavenger hunt in this clever debut novel that will keep you guessing until the end—for readers of Gone Girl and The Girl Before.
“Ahoy, Ava! Welcome home, my sweet jet-setting twin! So glad you were able to wrest yourself away from your dazzling life in the City of Light; I hope my ‘death’ hasn’t interrupted anything too crucial.”
Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. In Paris, Ava renounces her terribly practical undergraduate degree, acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past. Two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.
Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls’ increasingly unstable mother, Zelda was allegedly burned alive when she passed out in the barn with a lit cigarette. But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message—from her sister.
Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues about her disappearance. With the police stuck on a red herring, Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers. Along the way, Zelda forces her twin to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke Ava’s heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving, or to teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?
Featuring a colorful, raucous cast of characters, Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut thriller takes readers on a literary scavenger hunt for clues concealed throughout the seemingly idyllic wine country, hidden in plain sight on social media, and buried at the heart of one tremendously dysfunctional, utterly unforgettable family.
New and noteworthy in USA Today!
“Dolan-Leach’s clever thriller explores the fraying ties that bind twin sisters. . . . Readers will enjoy this full-bodied novel about a family of vintners.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The disappearance of Ava’s wild-child twin is just the beginning of this roller-coaster read that’s as enthralling as it is WTF?!”—Cosmopolitan
“Ava, the star of this atmospheric debut, isn’t convinced her calculating twin sister, Zelda, is really dead—especially after she starts getting enigmatic emails from Zelda’s account, propelling her on a complicated hunt for the truth.”—Entertainment Weekly (“The Must List”)
“We do love a good mystery, and Dolan-Leach’s debut novel is a prime example of the form. . . . Dead Letters centers around the most dysfunctional of families, and reading it feels like embarking on a literary scavenger hunt that you never want to end.”—Nylon
“Dolan-Leach’s debut reads like an Agatha Christie novel set in a world with internet access. . . . The action unfolds with a kind of playful theatricality and cleverness that is totally and utterly engrossing.”—i-D (Vice)
“Dolan-Leach nimbly entwines the clever mystery of Agatha Christie, the wit of Dorothy Parker, and the inebriated Gothic of Eugene O’Neill.”—Kirkus Reviews