Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden (August 2013)

longingThis book is labeled “A Proper Romance” on the cover.  I think that’s because there is no sex, and only one exceptionally chaste kissing scene.  The “Proper” bit almost made me put the book down.  I’m glad I didn’t.  I read this book quickly and enjoyed it, in spite of the treacly  and repetitious spots, and moments when the main character doth protest too much.  This is a sweet romance that takes place in a small Wyoming frontier town.  But it illuminates an historical reality that was anything but sweet:  the intense, sometimes fatal discrimination faced by Irish immigrants.  I knew the Irish were treated poorly.  But I did not realize the extent of the discrimination, the blatant, in-your-face unfairness of it.  And I knew something about the famine from which they escaped.  But I did not have a feel for the impossible choices families faced.  So I recommend this novel for it’s enjoyable, chaste romance; and for the history that will grab your attention and keep it, giving you that emotional connection to an aspect of the country’s expansion that fiction often does best.  Advance Reader’s Copy supplied by BEA.

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Arranged by Catherine McKenzie (2012), And Laughter Fell From the Sky by Jyotsna Sreenivasan (2012)

arranged laughterAfter taking a months-long hiatus to read mass market romances, none of which sufficiently compelled me to write reviews, I’m back —  and able to publicly admit what I’ve been reading.  I’m not sure why I dove head first into arranged marriage as a topic.  But two books from 2012 that I had put on my mental “to read” list, while I debauched my brain with other fare, just happened to be on that subject.  And they are very different from each other.  McKenzie, a Canadian, wrote a novel about two Anglos, frustrated after years of unhappy alliances, choosing on a whim to contact a marriage service.  The writing is quite good, and for those of us who have ever encountered a therapist, the therapy sessions are LOL, and insightful.  A surprise partway through the book piques additional interest.  I now want to read McKenzie’s earlier novel, Spin.    I am just now finishing Sreenivasan’s novel, and I can’t claim to have gobbled it up so thoroughly as Arranged.  Well, I am reading it quickly, it has drawn me in and kept me going, but it’s kind of in spite its problems rather than because of its virtues.  First the virtues:  the story of two Indian Americans from different caste backgrounds living in Ohio, is fascinating.  Whereas Arranged described an ultramodern twist on an ancient tradition, so twisted from the original that it has little in common with any tradition; And Laughter Fell From the Sky illucidates that ancient tradition, albeit with some changes in favor of greater rights for women than existed even just several decades ago.  Equally interesting are the differences among the Indian immigrant characters, whether because of caste, gender, generation, or personality.  It’s probably human nature to think of cultures different from our own as monolithic.  This novel is a good antidote to that sort of thinking.  Now the problems:  Things happen that make you say, OK, that never would have happened in real life.  For realistic fiction, it’s not very realistic — the dialog is off, and often stilted, and coincidences abound.  And I just don’t like the main female character.  With 45 pages to go, maybe she’ll redeem herself.  But I think it’s too late for me and my affections, who find the character so shallow a guppy would suffocate in her personality.  I love the guy.  But why said guy would love the girl is beyond me.  Nonetheless, I have enjoyed the foray into arranged marriage.  Especially since I am safely ensconced in a love marriage of my own.

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