Tag: Contemporary fiction

American Dirt

American Dirt
Author:  Jeanine Cummins
Published: January 21, 2020
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: January 8-February 1, 2020
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

Jessica’s Review:

What must be said first: American Dirt is a work of fiction, and Jeanine Cummins brings us the story of Lydia and her son Luca, who lose their entire family during a quinceañera in the first few chapters of the novel.  From here, Lydia and Luca have no choice but go on a journey of traveling through Mexico to illegally cross the border into the USA.  American Dirt shows how much one mother will go through to save her child at all costs.

At times the novel did drag for me, as it seemed too long.  American Dirt does show the reader who may not be of Hispanic origin how dangerous Mexico is and the perilous journey migrants face as they attempt to cross the border illegally. And most don’t ever make it.  Some of the journey came with extremes and it seemed like Cummins was trying for some extreme shock value to some of what happens to our characters and the others they come across. 

Do read the Author’s Note as Cummins gives us some insight into her wanting to write this story and her family. She is of Puerto Rican descent and her husband was an illegal immigrant.  It took her five years to get American Dirt published.

I listened to the audiobook version and the narrator is Yareli Arizmendi. She is Mexican and narrated the novel with perfection. She gave a voice to the Spanish words for me, which if I had read them myself, I would have butchered the way they were supposed to be said. 

Many thanks to the publishers Flatiron Books and Macmillan Audio for granting me an arc digital download of the novel to listen to.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Author: Jodi Picoult
Published: April 11, 2017
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 19-29, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

Jessica’s Review:

This is a very intense and difficult read and it will be just as difficult to review because it deals with very sensitive topics: Race and prejudice.  We have three points of view throughout the novel:

Ruth Jefferson- An African American nurse with over 20 years of experience.
Turk Bauer- The father of the newborn and white supremacist.
Kennedy McQuarrie- A white public defender.

We learn about their pasts as well as the current chain of events.  We also meet their families through their backstories.  Turk is very much a character of pure hate. 

Everything with Small Great Things is compelling. You have no idea how Picoult is going to end this story.  The trial is engrossing and I wanted to continue listening to the audiobook.  The climax and ending come out of left field and were so extreme that it was unfortunately not believable.  ‘Stage Three’ which also serves as the Epilogue gave me some chills.

 This is a novel that will keep you thinking about the issue of race long after you have finished it.  There is also an important Author’s Note which I would tell you to read.  Picoult took a risk being a white woman and writing on the issue of race from an African American woman’s perspective, but handled it with grace and well researched with interviews. 

In addition to listening to the audiobook, I also have a UK paperback edition.  This included a short story from Ruth’s childhood where she also dealt with the issue of race. This short story shows how cruel children really can be.

Despite the unbelievable ending, Small Great Things is recommended.  It is supposed to become a movie as some point and I will watch it.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

[Top]

The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: November 17- December 5, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Jessica’s Review:

I have thought about how to review this novel for several days after finishing.  I was admittedly nervous to read it due to the content and controversy of this novel, but felt I had to read it.  This may be a review that not everyone will agree with, but it is MY opinion.  I have debated on sharing it on social media as this review will go against the mainstream.

Yes, this is an important novel that will bring about many discussions, I just don’t agree with it. And yes, I see both sides of the issue.

A police officer shot an unarmed young man. BUT the young man didn’t do what he should have done.  Starr is our narrator and she even tells us about ‘the talk’ her parents had with her if she were to ever be pulled over by a police officer. She tells us these rules and she tells us what is going on when she and her long time childhood friend Khalil are pulled over.  Khalil does not follow these ‘rules’. Be respectful to the officer, Khalil mouths off and gives attitude.  When the officer steps away Khalil goes back towards the car and opens the door! No sudden movements!  You don’t do that! Yes, Khalil was checking on Starr to make sure she was ok, but the officer did not know that.  Police officers are trained for certain situations and have to make sudden choices that mean life or death.  I have taken classes with local police departments and part of that is FATS: Fire Arms Training Simulation. This is where a situation plays out in front of you on a screen and you have to face that sudden, unexpected choice of to shoot or not to shoot. That can be life changing for a police officer. Do they get killed or the person they are facing? Everyone should do this at least once. It gives you a different perspective of what police officers go through.

Back to the novel: Khalil is a black teenager and the officer happens to be white. So this becomes a racial issue.  Khalil also did not have a weapon.  Rumors begin to surface that Khalil was a drug dealer and gang member.  Starr finds out things about her friend that she did not know.  She and her family fear what could happen if it becomes known that she witnessed the shooting. I can’t help but wonder what the novel would have been like if the officer had been black.

Starr is also a black teenager and lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a suburban prep school that is mainly made up of white students. Some of her friends are stereotypical and you can’t believe some of these kids!   Starr’s parents made the decision for her to attend that school. They want a better life for her. In some ways Starr seems bipolar- she is one person at home in the neighborhood and someone else while at school.  Who is the real Starr? I don’t think she even knows.

She is also dating a white boy from her school and has for a year.  Do her parents know this? No, and her dad would not be happy about this.  At one point she says she can’t be with Chris as he is white. He also wouldn’t understand what she is going through because he is white. Really? Give the boy a chance!

As people are upset about Khalil’s death, they protest. They even protest at Starr’s school.  Those students did not even know him- they were basically protesting to get out of class.  There is also a difference between protesting and full out rioting.  This occurs in the novel as well. I don’t understand this. Damaging people’s property, leaving clean up and more lives affected once protests are over.

Yes, there are good police officers and bad officers.  I listened to the shooting a second time after I finished the novel.  Khalil was shot three times in the back.  Three times seems extreme.

Yes, I do see both sides of this controversial issue. This will be an issue for a while.  That was the purpose of this novel: To bring out conversation and make you think.  It made me think and still does.  The novel is not really for me.  There is foul language used, including the ‘N’ word and there are some sexual references.  I would say parents read first before you let your kids read this novel. I would not let a young child read it but this would be for older teenagers. Teenagers are old enough to understand the issue and have that conversation.

Though not really a book for me, I do recommend it for the conversations it will bring.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

[Top]