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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Three Fascinating Family Stories

Reprinted from auburnpub.com

I enjoy a good family story, one that gives the reader insight into family dynamics. This month’s Book Report has three novels that delve into interesting family stories.

Naomi Hirahara’s Clark and Division is set during WWII. Aki and Rose are two sisters, born in America to Japanese parents. They lived in a California community, and their father has a good job managing a food market. 

They faced prejudice and racism at their mostly white school. When Aki was invited to a white classmate’s birthday pool party, the other girls refused to swim in the pool with her, and the hostess was ashamed to ask her to come back and swim at another time. Rose earned the starring role in her high school’s stage production, but parents again complained, and she was bumped to a lesser role.

Then the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. The family was forced to leave their home and most of their belongings behind to move to an internment camp. The living conditions were appalling, and they lost all of the freedom they came to America to find.

Rose is sent to Detroit, and the rest of the family would follow in a few months after she was settled. When Aki and her parents arrive in Detroit, they discover that Rose was hit by a train and killed.

They were told that she committed suicide, but Aki does not believe it. In addition to trying to adjust to life in a new city, Aki makes it her mission to find out what happened to her sister.

Clark and Division blends historical fiction about the treatment that Japanese-Americans faced in America during WWII with the mystery of what led to Rose’s death. It’s an enlightening novel that immerses you in a time and place, as well as keeping you turning the pages to find out what happened to Rose. 

Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans takes place in Westchester County in New York. When Sunday Brennan is seriously injured in a car accident in Los Angeles, her older brother Denny travels there to bring her back home. 

Sunday left the family home suddenly five years prior, and no one knew exactly why. Her brother Denny and his best friend Kale own Brennan’s pub, and are planning on opening a second pub in a nearby town.

Kale was Sunday’s boyfriend when she left without a good explanation why. He is now married and the father of a four year-old boy, and Sunday’s return home creates problems in his marriage.

Unbeknownst to Kale (or anyone else), Denny borrowed money from someone he shouldn’t have to finance the new pub. The stress of keeping that secret from everyone is causing him trouble.

I loved how the Brennan family worked their way into my heart. Brother Jackie is an artist who is so kind to the youngest son Shane, as is the entire family. The family rallies together to help Denny and Kale keep their business afloat.

We eventually discover why Sunday left five years ago, and that leads to more trouble for the Brennan clan. The secrets each family member keeps come to the surface and it will either save them or destroy them.

In Sara Nisha Adams’ The Reading List, Mukesh is a widower outside London in mourning for the loss of his beloved wife a year ago. He is lonely, only seeing people at his local temple and neighborhood grocery store. 

When his young granddaughter Priya asks him about the books her grandmother loved, Mukesh decides to visit the small local library that his wife frequented to get some books for Priya.

Mukesh meets Aleisha, a young librarian who lives with her seriously depressed mother and her older brother. Aleisha doesn’t like to read, but when she finds a paper in a library book that reads “Just in case you need it:” followed by a list of novels, she suggests one of these books to Mukesh.

Aleisha and Mukesh bond over these books, and it brings them both out of their shells. They become friends, and share their lives with each other. Mukesh and Aleisha work together to save the library from closure.

I enjoyed learning about Mukesh’s Indian customs, especially the food his family enjoys. If reading and libraries are something you enjoy, The Reading List should be on your To-Be-Read pile. The way they tie the Reading List to characters at the end is sweet. (A warning though- there are some sad events in this book as well.)

Clark And Division by Naomi Hirahara- A-

Published by SOHO Crime

Hardcover, $27.95, 312 pages

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange- A

Published by Celadon

Hardcover, $26.99, 288 pages

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams- A-

Published by William Morrow

Hardcover, $27.99, 384 pages

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