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The Monday Book: THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL by Nadia Hashimi

pearlIt’s been awhile since I devoured a novel so thoroughly as this one. Hashimi writes in a simple, straightforward way. (And be warned, a couple of times the point of view shifts because the copy editor didn’t catch it.)

The book follows two women, Rahima the young daughter of a drug addict, and her great-aunt Shekiba (maybe a few greats in there) a century earlier. Rahima has only sisters, so by Afghani law she can be turned into a son until she is “too old.” That time comes all too quickly for Rahima, who like two of her sisters is married off to sons of the warlord her father serves (and owes for his opium).

Rahima tries to draw strength from Shekiba’s story, told by her unmarried aunt, who grows increasingly impation with Rahima’s mother when she follows her husband into opium despair. But that’s after several more tragedies pretty much rip out her heart.

Told with not as much sentiment as one might expect, and showing the unique ways in which women can find power in the strangest places, the story parallels Rahima’s brief life as a schoolboy and Shekiba’s man-guarding of the palace harem. (The king couldn’t trust men there, so he got ugly women to do it. Shekiba had been harmed by a fire, before the plague carried off her family. She managed to live independently for a bit, too, before her father’s brothers figured out the land was available. Nothing goes too well after that.)

Although the book is intense in its depictions of violence and toxic masculinity, it also shows the ways in which women work together or gang up against each other to work their will. And it is a gripping read, moving quickly through the action with just the right amount of characterization. Dressed in period clothing and speaking Afghani to one another, you still feel like you know these people. Nothing new here, just the usual family jealousy and economic troubles revealing what’s in people’s hearts.

Hashimi combines words in an interesting way, unique almost. Prosaic yet lyrical, as in this quote: “The human spirit, you know what they say about the human spirit? Is is harder than a rock and more delicate than a flower petal.” And for all the cultural awareness of the work, there are some lovely character moments that transcend setting, as in when someone tells Rashima she must accept her destiny, or naseeb: “The hell with naseeb. Naseeb is what people blame for every thing they can’t fix.”

Heartily recommended.

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Filed under book reviews, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction

The Monday Book: THE HARDER THEY COME by TC Boyle

the harderThis week’s Monday Book comes from Paul Garrett.

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harder They Come

A Review

 

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

#

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harder They Come

A Review

 

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

#

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harder They Come

A Review

 

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

#

 

 

 

 

The Harder They Come

A Review

 

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

#

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