YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR
Written by Mitali Perkins
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 12, 2017
My star rating: 4 stars
This elegant novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse.
From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.
Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new. Find it on Goodreads
Wow! This book was just SO beautiful! I was a little nervous going into it though. After reading the first two chapters I closed the book and set it down on my shelf. I was scared to pick it up again because I felt like I was going to hate it. We are introduced to two sisters (Sonia and Tara) and their mother. I made assumptions about all 3 of them based on those first two chapters, and it worried me that it would be more of that same attitude and behaviour the whole way through….. not the case. Watching these three women (along with 2 other children/grandchildren down the line) grow, learn, and evolve was just so stunning and heartwarming.
I absolutely adore books that explore the balances of culture vs society. Stories that follow the struggle of knowing who you are and who you should be (also whether or not society’s beliefs should effect your place in the world) are so fascinating to me. In fact, this is one of the most well done books in that aspect! Here is why I think so: This book follows 3 generations. We have the Grandmother Ranee, her two daughters (Sonia and Tara), and the granddaughters (Chantal and Anna). Each of these women are in different places in their lives and each has different things that they value above others. The chapters showcase their different points of view and we as the reader get insight into why they think the way they do, what events in their lives brought them to their conclusion, and how they work as a family through it all. Them working together was possibly one of the most beautiful things about this story. They realize that it’s ok to be who you are, no matter what society thinks of you, and it’s ok to have desires even if they go against your nature or follow too closely to what people expect of you. I hope all of that didn’t confuse you but I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts into words! I enjoyed this book so much and felt such a connection with each of these women – yet I can’t really explain why. This is just a book that you have to feel and experience. It can’t be explained.
The characters were wonderful! Each for their own reasons. At first I hated the mother Ranee. Her actions, emotions, and word choices just made me mad. In the end I felt most sorry for her as she is the one who spent a longer time in India and was more firmly rooted in a non American culture, so adjusting would have been so much harder. The sisters, Sonia (Sunny) and Tara (Starry) were such a great team! So supportive in literally every way as they navigated their new life and adjusted to American culture. I don’t have siblings, but if I did, I wish I could bond and know each other so completely like they did. Tara first comes off superficial and annoying. She seemed to be most willing to change who she was to be accepted. Strangely enough it was her character arc I enjoyed the most and her falling in love made me cry. Yes, I cried! Sadly, after her marriage, her character just fell away unlike all the rest and that really annoyed me! Sonia (Sunny) started off such a quiet little book worm and she is the one that changed the most. The grandchildren, Chantal and Anna were just as wonderful and it was great to see how much had changed for them after being in America for so long.
The writing isn’t super fast paced. This is more of an emotional, slow burning, character driven story. There are little twists and turns that each character takes as they grow, but nothing drastic. So if you’re looking for fast pace this isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a well written emotional story with multiple points of view that will capture your attention – this IS for you!
I wish that I could say a little more, but as I said above, this is a story that must be experienced for you to really understand. It’s labeled as a YA book, but I know that this is something that anyone of any age can relate to. I actually will be recommending this one to my mom and my daughter! It was such a well written story, a very quick read, and so emotionally complex. I will be sure to keep an eye out for more books by this author!
Until next time, happy reading!