Category: First Novels

Review: What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan

I really enjoyed Lucy Tan’s debut novel about a family living in modern-day Shanghai.  Wei, Lina and their teenage daughter Karen are a wealthy family  living in a luxurious “serviced” apartment, that have recently moved from America to Shanghai. The story is told from their perspective, as well as that of their cleaner, Sunny.  Through Sunny’s…

Science Fiction and Fantasy Mini-Reviews: Two Nebula Nominees

Today’s reviews are about two books on the Nebula Award finalist list. The Nebula Awards recognize the best works of science fiction and fantasy published in the United States as selected by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly Amberlough is a difficult-to-categorize book.  I was expecting science…

Review of Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

This was a really intense book, at times devastating, but I’m glad I read it.  Just know that it isn’t an easy read. It’s the story of two girls who meet in Indravalli, India who meet as teenagers.  Both are poor, uneducated, and forced to work to support their families, although even in poverty there’s…

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

I loved this thoughtful book about immigration and U.S. citizenship.  It was the perfect complement to the other books I’ve read on this subject, like Lisa Ko’s The Leavers and Diane Guerrero’s In the Country I Love. This is the story of Jende Jonga and his wife Neni.  The Jongas are from Cameroon, having emigrated…

Best Books of Summer Part Two: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This was a powerful book about the impacts of slavery, and for me it was another book of summer that completely lived up to the hype.  Gyasi writes of two sisters, living in two different African villages.  One marries a white slaver and remains in what is today Ghana, and the other is captured at…

Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò

I found this book about a marriage in Nigeria fascinating and meaningful, although it wasn’t quite what I expected. The story begins with a married couple who now live apart.  Yejide is going to see her husband after many years for his father’s funeral. Then the story takes us back to the early years of…

The Atlas of Forgotten Places by Jenny D. Williams

I was pretty much glued to this book while I was reading it.  It’s both suspenseful and thoughtful, and provides detailed information about a country that most Americans know little about.  Williams, a former aid worker in Uganda, tells the story from two perspectives.  Sabine is a German woman who has spent most of her adult life…

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

I recommend this short but moving first novel by Rachel Khong about a woman caring for her father with Alzheimer’s.  This is a prospect I find absolutely terrifying, whether for my parents and for myself.  It seems to me that almost any physical ailment would be less scary than gradually losing one’s mind, knowing that…

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer is a first novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which won last year’s Pulitzer Prize for literature.  It’s a fascinating look at the Vietnam War and its aftermath from the perspective of the Vietnamese.  Right away it makes you realize how much Americans only see the Vietnam War from our own perspective, not those…