Another slow week here in my mailbox but the two books that did arrive look like they'll be real gems.
First, from LibraryThing, I received Looking After Pigeon by Maud Carol Markson. The book flap describes it thusly: Of Maud Carol Markson's first novel, When We Get Home, Andre Dubus wrote, "It may be the best story we have about marital love." In this, her second novel, Markson once again explores the sometimes humorous, and always complex, realm of family and love. Her characters struggle to answer the questions "who will care for me? How will I care for myself?"
One spring day in New York City, five-year-old Pigeon's father disappears, leaving her to face a new and bewildering life with her mother and older siblings in an uncle's house on the Jersey shore.
"Our mother named her children after birds," so begins a new grown up Pigeon as she describes the tumultuous events of this pivotal childhood summer with her brother Robin and her older sister Dove. In the heat and unfamiliarity of a beach town near Atlantic City, each member of her family looks for a caretaker of some kind: Robin in a fortune teller, Dove in older lovers, her Uncle Edward in the feckless owner of a diner, and her mother Joan in a religious cult. All the while, Pigeon, the youngest, searches for her father, believing he will return to the family to care for her. Through the course of the summer, Pigeon discovers surprising and lasting truths about those she loves, and about her own possibilities in the world.
Secondly I received Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie from Picador. I am excited beyond all measure for this one since Shamsie's Salt and Saffron is one of my all time favorite books. Amazon says this about it: Beginning on August 9, 1945, in Nagasaki, and ending in a prison cell in the US in 2002, as a man is waiting to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of love and betrayal.
Hiroko Tanaka is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veranda, wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, her world is suddenly and irrevocably altered. In the numbing aftermath of the atomic bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. In search of new beginnings, two years later, Hiroko travels to Delhi. It is there that her life will become intertwined with that of Konrad's half sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu.
With the partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan, Hiroko will find herself displaced once again, in a world where old wars are replaced by new conflicts. But the shadows of history--personal and political--are cast over the interrelated worlds of the Burtons, the Ashrafs, and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York and, in the novel's astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound these families together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.
As always, if you want to see what others found in their mailboxes this past week, check out Marcia's blog at The Printed Page.