“I think of the four of us as subject to the same flash flood, all senselessly bailing water into our own boats in hopes the others might end up on dry land.” (p. 122)“Our views of love — what we want from it, what we think it should feel like — are rooted in the context of our lives.” (p. 72)“But now I understand that there are always two breakups: the public one and the private one. Both are real, but one is sensible and the other is ugly. Too ugly to share in cafés. Too ugly, I sometimes think, to even write.” (p. 134)“I didn’t know what was real and what was scripted.” (p. 16)“Nothing was funny, really, but we couldn’t stop laughing the manic laughter of people who know it will be a while before they hear themselves laugh again.” (p. 40)
In a week, on August 11, 2015, a fantastic book entitled Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam will be released. This is hand’s down the best book I’ve ever received as an Advance Reader’s Copy from the First to Read program. If you know what’s good for you, you will snatch it up/request it from your local library instantly! Bright Lines features many dynamic characters who are all fully fleshed out — each of the characters all exist with their own qualities and back stories and aren’t simply devices to advance the plot, which unfortunately has been rare for me to find in books at times.
The novel shifts perspectives throughout the story from the patriarch of a family, Anwar, to his biological daughter, Charu, to his adopted child, El, who is the orphaned child of the patriarch’s deceased brother-in-law. Each of these characters struggle through their own individual turmoil and to find themselves, proving that a “coming of age” experience can occur even when you’ve passed middle age as it does for Anwar.
The novel takes place about ten years ago in Brooklyn, specifically an area that I spend a lot of time in today. This shared geography definitely added to my enjoyment of Bright Lines, but I think the setting is so well described that any reader will be able to easily imagine the environment where the characters reside. These illustrative descriptions of the setting continue when the novel shifts momentarily to Bangladesh, both when Anwar reflects on his youth in the country and when the family chooses to return for a family vacation.
Anwar owns an apothecary and isn’t always present in his own life and his family’s dilemmas because he spends a lot of time toking up. At times, his herbal habit influences him to be a bad father and spouse. He ultimately attempts to remedy his mentally and morally absent behavior, but the reader is left to decide if it’s too little to late. Charu, Anwar’s teenage daughter, experiences the most familiar “coming of age” story that I’ve read before, but Nandini still writes Charu’s story in an interesting way.
The journey I was most engrossed with was El’s, Anwar’s adopted child, who moves from their home country of Bangladesh to America. El explores their sexuality, gender identity, and place within their adopted family, each of which is beautifully detailed by the extremely talented Nandini. None of El’s story seems rushed or superficial and I felt like I was authentically accompanying El on their self-discovery.
Please, please, please read this book! Each of the stories are radically different and are beautifully interwoven. Plus, as a reader, you’ll get to enjoy exploring Brooklyn and Bangladesh with Nandini’s characters.
Disclaimer: I was provided with an Advance Reader Copy of this book for free from the Penguin First to Read program. All opinions expressed in the following review are my own and have not been influenced by Penguin.
Expected Publication Date: 11 August 2015 by Penguin Books. Format: Ebook.