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BAHIR

SURVIVING THE WORLD OUTSIDE

A sometimes-melodramatic but compelling survivor’s story.

A Pakistani woman lives much of her life in the Middle East, facing many obstacles in her search for love and financial security, in this novel.

Sawera is born in Pakistan in 1978, and is immediately given up for adoption by her biological mother to her sister, then childless. After Sawera’s adoptive parents have two sons, she becomes the family scapegoat, often being beaten by her mother (as when the girl comes home early and catches her parent kissing a man who’s not her husband). Sawera craves acceptance through romance and gains a bad reputation in high school. Jumping into marriage at age 17, she slaves for her husband, Wasim, and his three brothers and father; bears three children; and soon looks for another escape. Like her father before her, she seeks a work visa in Saudi Arabia; leaving her husband behind, she takes her children abroad. The money is good, but working in Saudi Arabia, and later in Bahrain, as an expatriate is a constant scramble for visa extensions and being at the mercy of exploitative sponsors, some extracting money and others sexual favors. Sawera must often leave her kids in Pakistan with relatives while she works, divorces, marries, divorces again, and tries to become a beautician. In the end, her life gets on the right track at last. Sawera both experiences and causes suffering (her children are often lonely and left with unaffectionate caretakers), but Gumber (Dying to Live, 2017, etc.) tells her story as a matter of triumphal survival in harsh circumstances. Something like Becky Sharp, Sawera is a survivor who, despite guilt pangs, sees moralizing as hypocrisy, especially in a world where the rich and well-connected get away so easily with cheating and using the powerless. On occasion, Sawera isn’t very subtle about pulling the heartstrings: Her mother “beat me up so much that I carried the bruises for weeks. My real bruises took an even longer time to heal. The bruises to my soul.” Overall, though, she’s convincing, and admirable in her determination to improve life for herself and her kids.

A sometimes-melodramatic but compelling survivor’s story.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5462-6498-9

Page Count: 156

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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