Title: You Bring the Distant Near
Genre: YA Contemporary/Family Saga
Release Date: September 12, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pages: 320 (US hardcover)
Format: Kindle ARC
*I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are mine.*
Goodreads Synopsis: This elegant young adult 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.
- Diversity: This is the story of an Indian-American family as they figure out their way in America and the struggle that some of the family members have with keeping their culture. So there’s a great showing of diversity for the Indian culture and there is an interracial relationship between one of the daughters and an African-American boy, which for the 70’s, was not socially accepted at the time. Those who are looking for a diverse book will find great representation in here. It was great to see a culture I knew a little about and explore it more.
- Topics Discussed: This is a great book showing how someone from another country comes to America and tries to find their identity. There’s the message that America has the space for many identities and I found that to be very true. America is rich in different cultures. It also touches on women’s rights of the 70’s, first love, clashing family ideas, death and coming of age. Perkins really brought these topics to life in the prose.
- Place: One of the strongest writing points to me was how the author described the settings/places. When she describes the spices in the kitchen, the Indian food, clothing and the small houses in places like Bangladesh were amazing. I picutred the characters near the Ganges river, picking a mango from a tree and talking about their rituals that are special to their culture. The different places we saw were vividly created and one of my favorite parts.
- First two-thirds: The first two parts focused on sisters Tara and Sonia, who start this family saga in the 1970’s in America. Tara wants to be an actress and likes to act like other famous women and Sonia longs to write everyday of things that are true to life. You see their struggle as they try to fit in at school and how they try to hide their hobbies from their mother, whose traditional ideals clash with theirs. While the plot is slow, I liked seeing the things they went through that helped shape them as people.
- Last third: The last third of this book focuses more on family members in the future, but it was confusing and jumbled. I had to keep re-reading the beginning of the section to try and keep track of who everyone was. I feel like the prose was jumping all over the place with the more current events. I also wasn’t invested in the future characters like Tara and Sonia in the beginning. I would’ve liked to see the full story of seeing how Sonia and Tara grew over the years instead of characters that I couldn’t keep track of.
- Few pieces of dialogue: I do feel like in some places throughout the book had some confusing dialogue. I’m not sure if they are errors that will be fixed in the final copy, or references that were put in from back in the older days, but I was confused again. Some pieces of dialogue felt forced or just put in there with not much thought.
- Closure: With Sonia and Tara being front and center, I feel like I didn’t get closure to their characters. They do get happy endings, but I wanted to know stuff like: do they still have their quirks from when they were younger? How did they deal with their relationships, since their mother didn’t approve of them? How did some other past events shape them into adults? I feel like the author just summed up a few things of what happened to them in the beginning of the third section and that was it.
- Overall Pacing: I do agree with a few other reviewers that the pacing is very slow in this book. There’s not a lot of action or pieces of information to keep the reader going if they get bored easily. I did read the first two sections fairly quickly, but that was because I had the time. I didn’t feel that urge to keep reading when I was away from it, especially the last third. I ended up skimming the last part because my interest wasn’t there anymore.
Overall: I still recommend this book to people who are looking for a diverse read, a story that deals with immigration, or a contemporary to pick up. Many of the themes are very relevant today and do make it memorable, but a few things didn’t help me love it as much as I wanted.
Have you read this yet? Are you excited for it to come out? What other immigration type stories have you read and would recommend?