Call Me Zebra: a Novel by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US $24.00, Pp 304, February 2018, ISBN 978-0544944602
Good Neighbors: A Novel by Joanne Serling, Twelve Books, US $26.00, Pp 248, February 2018, ISBN 978-1455541911
White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, US $26.95, Pp 320, January 2018, ISBN 978-0735214439
The Bad Daughter: A Novel by Joy Fielding, Ballantine Books, US $27.00, Pp 368, February 2018, ISBN 978-0399181528
Zebra’s parents refused to submit when the Ayatollahs took over in Iran in 1979. They moved to Catalonia before moving to America. Zebra grew up to be an anarchist, atheist, and an autodidact. Like her parents, books were her last refuge. As an adult, she decides to leave New York for Barcelona in order to retrace the journey she made with her father from Iran to the United States many years ago. Things start changing for Zebra when she meets Ludo. Ludo is overwhelmed with Zebra’s complex literary theories as well as her obsession with death and history. Ludo thinks Zebra is unhinged while Zebra considers him pedantic. Neither is ready to walk out of the relationship but neither can figure out the true nature of their relationship. Call Me Zebra is the story of an exile and émigré and helps you look into the mind of someone who has lost his or her country. She inspires her readers to understand the pain of others and make space for them. It is an attempt to fight the common narratives that reduce others to stereotypes. It will make you laugh but also a little cry. It is an extraordinarily enjoyable read.
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is the author of Fra Keeler. She is the recipient of a 2015 Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree, a MacDowell Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship in Fiction to Catalonia, Spain.
Good Neighbors is set in a typical American idyllic suburb where four families form a closely-knit neighborhood friendship. As is common in a typical suburban neighborhood, their friendship revolves around the ages of their children. They have been living and enjoying life until one family – Paige and Gene Edwards – adopts a four-year-old girl from Russia. This changes the dynamics of their friendship as questions are raised about the group’s loyalty and morality. Are the Edwards unkind to their adopted daughter? Does the adopted daughter have hidden destructive tendencies? The group starts to fall apart as neighbor Nicole Westerhof is drawn into the life of the adopted girl. This leads Nicole to re-examine the deceptive and hypocritical nature of her family as unexpected events start unfolding in the neighborhood. In Good Neighbors, Joanne Serling explores the American suburban culture and penetrates inside it. She shows that it is founded on tension and a little bit of hypocrisy. There is a different person behind a smiling face and a Facebook post. You will quickly think it is the story of your neighborhood. It is an extraordinarily stunning and entertaining read.
Joanne Serling is a graduate of Cornell University and studied and taught fiction at The Writers Studio in New York City. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review. She lives outside of New York with her husband and children and is at work on her second book.
The first part of White Chrysanthemum is set in Korea in 1943. Hana was born and raised under Japanese occupation. As a ‘haenyeo’– female diver of the sea — she enjoyed the freedom few other Koreans could dream of. This came to an abrupt end when Hana saved her younger sister, Emi, from a Japanese soldier but was herself captured. She was taken to Manchuria where she was forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. As ‘haenyeo’ are women of strong will, she found her way home. The second part of the White Chrysanthemum is set in South Korea in 2011. All her life, Emi has struggled to forget her past and her sister’s sacrifice. But, then she realizes that she needs to face her past to find peace. Is seeing the healing of her children is enough to overcome her pain? Can she leave the legacy of war and live in peace? This moving and redemptive debut is a heart-breaker. It shines a light on the less explored aspects of wars. It is filled with the pain a war can cause. It is a very absorbing and hypnotic debut.
An American author of Korean descent living in London, Mary Lynn Bracht did her MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. Mary came of age in postwar South Korea. In 2002, Bracht visited her mother’s childhood village, and it was during this trip she first learned of the “comfort women” and conceived the idea of her debut White Chrysanthemum.
Robin left her father five years ago when he married her best friend. One day, she receives a voicemail from her estranged sister, Melanie. Melanie’s message said their father, his second wife, and his twelve-year-old stepdaughter had been shot in what looked like a robbery gone awry. They were in a hospital fighting for their lives. During these past five years, Robin had never thought of her father in good words. The message from her sister sends Robin spiraling in a panic attack. Robin decides to return to her family and mend fences. As she waits for her father to recover, Robin wonders if there is more to the attack that she was unable to see. The robbery attack quickly starts to appear more than a usual burglary attempt. She soon starts suspecting everyone – Robin’s sister, her nephew, her brother and her stepmother – has something to hide from her. The Bad Daughter is a family saga of intrigues. You keep guessing as you turn pages. You may not discover the truth in the story until the end of the novel. It is a highly entertaining novel that is packed with a lot of suspense. As a gifted storyteller, Joy Fielding knows how to capture your full attention.
The New York Times’ bestselling author Joy Fielding’s acclaimed novels include She’s Not There, Someone Is Watching, Now You See Her, Still Life, Mad River Road, See Jane Run. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida.