15812220So I’ve been on a bit of a reading spree lately, (why couldn’t I have done this in January?) in case you couldn’t already tell with all my posts being on book reviews lately.

Well, you knew you all were getting into bed with a bibliophile so y’all got no one but yourselves to blame.  😀

Anyways, the latest casualty in my reading gambit is Everything Was Goodbye by Gurjinder Basran, a breakout novel for a Canadian author of Middle Eastern decent, writing about the lives of Canadian women of Middle Eastern decent.

Here we meet Meena, I think one of the youngest of six girls of a single mom who immigrated to Canada with her husband and six daughters when everyone was still very young, too young to remember India or England where they were born/lived respectively.

First off, this is a very powerful book, exploring the generational gap a lot of children have with immigrant parents, the parents often wanting to hold on to old ideas, customs, and traditions, and the children often wanting to break away or feeling stifled in their family dynamic.  It is a wonderfully done, beautifully moving book.  The only downfalls are that it doesn’t have much of a happy ending, and it seems to enforce all the negative stereotypes of immigrant Middle Eastern families.  I know, I know, it is ‘fiction’, but still.  All the horror stories you hear about in urban legends and on the news are here in this book so it is a little disconcerting.  And here’s why:

For the most part, Meena and her sisters follow their mother’s wishes, marrying young to the sons and nephews of family friends, popping out babies as quickly as possible, and keeping mum about abusive situations at home.  I think it’s Meena’s eldest sister who keeps showing up with bruises throughout the story.

One of Meena’s sisters does rebel, and runs away from home, but only after she is raped by some white boys from school and no one will listen to her side of the story.  All that happens when she gets home afterwards is she gets in trouble for ‘getting into a van with young boys’, as reported by nosy neighbor ladies, who completely ignore the fact that she’s being forced into the van against her will.  Yeah.  That’s always fun.

And Meena rebels in her own way too, but it’s not a very healthy way.  She gets married like her sisters, changes her name to please her in-laws, and puts up with the ridicule of her in-laws when she can’t have a baby because of her husband’s low sperm count.  So how does she deal with the unhappiness at home?  She has an affair with her childhood sweetheart, a guy named Liam, gets pregnant by him, and leaves her husband for him but only after husband beats her for her infidelity.

Normally this would be a ‘yay!’, except for the fact that the ex husband kills her lover Liam a few months later at a wedding they’re all attending.  Now officially, it was an ‘accident’, but you could view this in the light of ‘honor killings’ which is no end of creepy.

So at the end of it all, after everything she has gone through, at the age of 30/35, Meena has a six month old daughter she needs to raise on her own, her daughter’s father being killed by Meena’s ex husband, and a few years down the road she start having another affair with the cousin of her ex husband.  And this is really ironic, it was the wedding of the ex husband’s cousin where Liam was killed.

And she doesn’t seem happy.  It’s three years later after Liam’s death, her daughter is growing, she has another man who loves her and she could love in return, but she still seems all kinds of depressed and lonely.  Some of it I can understand because she still misses the love of her life, but there is some point where you need to move on and find your own happiness, because if you truly love someone the way that I think Meena and Liam did and one passes first, I don’t think they would want the other left behind to feel like that forever.

A good book, a great read, but I personally have mixed feelings on it.  You’ll have to decide for yourself.

Enjoy folks.

Next time: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

8574333A million-plus-copy best seller in Korea—a magnificent English-language debut poised to become an international sensation—this is the stunning, deeply moving story of a family’s search for their mother, who goes missing one afternoon amid the crowds of the Seoul Station subway.

Told through the piercing voices and urgent perspectives of a daughter, son, husband, and mother, Please Look After Mom is at once an authentic picture of contemporary life in Korea and a universal story of family love.

You will never think of your mother the same way again after you read this book.