Baba Dunja’s Last Love by Alina Bronsky

Baba Dunja's Last Love by Alina Bronsky Title: Baba Dunja’s Last Love
Author: Alina Bronsky
Translator: Tim Mohr
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN:978-1609453336
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

In my experience, most of the time, shorter books make for some great reading experiences. What sometimes big books fail to communicate, a short book does magnificently. “Baba Dunja’s Last Love” by Alina Bronsky does just that as a gem of a small book. It just makes you sit back and take count of life in some of the most adverse situations and makes you see how far you have come and how it is all going to be okay (or at least you can hope that it will all turn out okay).

So now more about the book. Baba Dunja’s Last Love is a book that is hopeful and yet stems from despair. It is the kind of book that makes you question mankind and its treacherous ways and also redeems the very same race of man. The story is set in Baba Dunja’s home town – which a stone throw away from Chernobyl. The very same Chernobyl that was the core of the nuclear accident of 1986. Baba Dunja has nothing to go back home to but she wants to and she does.

She lives in her house and returns to her village life. She is in touch with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter who live in Germany. Marja lives in the house next to her and life has an unexpected twist for her as well. Then there is Petrov who is terminally ill and spends his time reading poems. There are other twisted characters in the village and somehow all seems to be going well, till a stranger and his daughter arrives and Baba Dunja’s life is never the same.

This is just the threadbare plot that I have mentioned. There is obviously a lot going on in the book with its dark humour and wit – which you will eventually come to know if you read the book. The writing is never boring or out of place. It is not a big book either – so you can really sit back and finish it in one sitting, even though the topic might seem grim. Bronsky has this charm to her writing – mixing harsh realities with a constant dream that makes you want to hoot for the characters and hope all turns out well for them.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard Title: The Deep End of the Ocean
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670865796
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 434
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I have always been a fan of the books Oprah has recommended on her book club. It all began in 2001 I think and since then I have read some of the old ones recommended by her and some of the old ones. So I have decided to read all the books chosen by her – one after the other. What better place to start than the very beginning, isn’t it?

The beginning came in the form of a dark, depressing and quite a hopeful book called, “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. When you read it, you cannot believe it is her debut. It is a story of a mother and her child and about every mother’s worst nightmare.

Beth Cappadora is at her school reunion, all ready to check-in to her room, only to turn around and realize that her 3-year old son is missing. Everything changes in a split second. Her relationship with her husband, her children, her relatives, all of it – it just goes to smoke as she perpetually is in a grieving mode.

I could not turn the pages enough of this one. It had me stuck from the word go. I would also suggest that you do not watch the movie of the same book as it just does not do justice to the book. While reading the book though, I felt myself grieving with Beth – almost scared to turn the page, to want good things to happen to her and her family. Mitchard’s writing is so simple and yet so heart-wrenching that if you are a parent you wouldn’t want to even imagine what would happen if this were to happen to you.

“The Deep end of the Ocean” does not disappoint one single bit. This was another book for which I shouldn’t have waited this long. I should have read it sooner. However, better late than never I guess.

Nejma by Nayyirah Waheed

Nejma by Nayyirah Waheed Title: Nejma
Author: Nayyirah Waheed
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1494493325
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 178
Source: Kindle Unlimited Library
Rating: 4 Stars

Another glorious read by Nayyirah Waheed and she manages to strike yet another chord with me. I mean one book after the other and I just want to lap and take everything she has to offer. Her words are deliciously bitter, lonely and angst-ridden. All they want is an audience – ears that will take it all in and reflect. Souls that will be moved and perhaps prompted to do something about the atrocities of the world.

“Nejma” by Nayyirah Waheed is a poetry collection which is kinda overlooked in the shadow of “salt” but you will definitely not be disappointed when you give this one a go. The poems come from a place of suffering, of introspection and then they sweep you to places of the heart and mind that you never thought you’d venture.

Waheed’s writing is so lucid that it seeps into your soul and I am not even exaggerating about this. I think every poem was so different and unique that it had me wondering – that she can go on and on and on and I would love to turn the pages and soak it all in. The poems are structured again like they were in “salt” – the poem, followed by a word – so it seems that the poem describes the word – which it really does.

“Nejma” is a collection of poems that range from the extremely angry to the tiredly gracious to the most subtle that breaks your heart – over and over again. Might I also add that it is because of independent publishers such as Create Space, we get to read these gems. The poetry that sticks is the kind you always go back to – reliving those words and wanting more. Three cheers to them and to the power of words that keep us alive – day by day.

The Truth According to Arthur by Tim Hopgood and David Tazzyman

The Truth According to Arthur by Tim Hopgood Title: The Truth According to Arthur
Author: Tim Hopgood
Illustrator: David Tazzyman
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1408864999
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Picture books are adorable. Well most of them are. Right from Dr. Seuss to Oliver Jeffers, in my opinion, they would do more good for adults than children. We can all learn a lesson or two from picture books – how to be calm, grounded, more patient and also live the moment as it comes our way. They also teach us a lot about basic life lessons and how we can live – one day at a time.

One such picture book I read was “The Truth According to Arthur” by Tim Hopgood and illustrated by David Tazzyman. The book is about Arthur, fibbing and telling the truth about ramming his brother’s bicycle to his mom’s car and the dent it caused. Truth is a grey, oblong being in the background, waiting to see what Arthur will say or do now.

The book is simple, funny and Arthur’s various versions of the truth will have you in splits. I absolutely enjoyed this book. Picture books do that to me. They bring out the child once a while and that is a good thing. The illustrations by David Tazzyman are adorable and simple. I think it is the simplicity that makes you want to ponder and look at the illustrations again and again. They make you see things differently – a child’s view after all is not easy to adopt. We forget that we need more books such as these to balance our lives and make it better.

salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

salt by Nayyirah Waheed Title: salt.
Author: Nayyirah Waheed
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1492238287
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 258
Source: Borrowed from Kindle Unlimited
Rating: 5 Stars

Once in a while you read something that shakes your core. It jolts you out of the mundane existence and makes you question everything and everyone around you. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever felt so compelled by art? Nayyirah Waheed’s poetry did that to me. It made me want to drop everything, leave everything behind and go and find myself. It had that kind of an impact. I am this close to perhaps even doing that.

I don’t know why it felt the way it did, but I honestly believe that if any work of art can drive you to this point or to tears (which also happened by the way) then it is an indication that you wake up, smell the coffee and do something about what is going on – in your life and also to perhaps make a better change in someone else’s life as well.

“salt” is a collection of poems by Waheed on the condition of being black, feeling alienated, how the heart is empty and bereft, how does one heal after all, and of various other matters of the heart and soul. Each poem comes with a word at the bottom – the poem defines the word – gives it meaning and that is the format of this collection.

I don’t know what more to say about this magnificent collection of poems. I have no words, honestly. I don’t even know if I would be doing the book any justice at all by talking about it. “salt” is the kind of collection of poems that will rip your heart out, toss it a little, turn it a bit, throw it far away, make you realize what you have lost, make you fetch it, repair it and let it heal. A stunning collection of poems.

Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill

Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill Title: Jenny and the Cat Club
Author: Esther Averill
Publisher: NYRB Children’s Collection
ISBN: 978-1590170472
Genre: Children’s Books, Children’s Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This is an adorable book which all cat lovers and non-cat lovers must also read. What else do I say about this? Esther Averill successfully created a series about Jenny Linski, the cat and her friends, when cats weren’t that hipster. This book, “Jenny and the Cat Club” is the first in the series of many cat books written by Esther and I so intend reading all of them – one after the other.

Being the first book, it introduces readers to Jenny and how she became a part of the cat club. It is about her life with her owner known as the captain. She is an orphaned black cat with her trademark red scarf. The book is set in Greenwich Village.

It is one of the most endearing books I’ve read in a very long time. The stories are old-fashioned for sure, and yet there is this enduring charm about them that makes you want to be in that place and experience the way those stories turned out.

Esther never used too many words to tell a story. Brevity was the key and one can see work itself beautifully in these stories. I cannot resist but mention the illustrations. They are simple and beautifully drawn by the author herself. Hence the personal touch and the knowing of how each cat will look. What makes the book so wonderful is the presence of so many cats. You just want them to keep conversing and know more about the mysterious cat world.

I am so glad I ordered this book and read it. I am glad I stumbled on it and I recommend every parent to buy this book and read it to their children. Your child will love you for it and you will love introducing something new to your child.

Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me: The Best of Teffi by Teffi

Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, And Me - The Best of Teffi Title: Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me: The Best of Teffi
Author: Teffi
Edited by: Robert Chandler and Anne Marie Jackson
Publisher: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 978-1590179963
Genre: Non-Fiction, Literature, Essays
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Some books are just so good that you want them to last longer than they did – to savour them, every single word then become precious. Teffi is one such author whose works you just want to soak in and want the words to linger long after. I got to know of her through the NYRB website and knew I just had to read this one – because of the author’s associations with literary giants such as Tolstoy and how she got to meet the very famously infamous Rasputin, not once but twice.

Teffi’s experiences are what this book is about – short autobiographical pieces that are sometimes funny, mostly catty and unforgettable for sure. These pieces were written in the 20s and 30s when she was in exile in Paris. There is a touch of poetic quality to her prose (no wonder because she wanted to be a poet anyway).

A lot of wit, human understanding of the world and empathy shine in every essay and that is what I love about the collection. Sure there are parts that I couldn’t relate to (because of the cultural barrier), however what I read was enough to tide me over to be able to understand the beauty of her language and the points she was trying to make.

From speaking of her childhood most vividly to the Russian cultural phenomenon, nothing is left out. The essays show us the Russia that was quite forward in its approach when it came to the arts to the Russia that was turbulent and oppressive at the same time.

The book is divided into four parts – first being about how she lived and worked, second about personal aspects of her life – from how she was raised to her time in France, the third one is about her bizarre encounters with people and the fourth is about famous authors and writers. She truly did have a sense of understanding people and reading them quite accurately.

Teffi’s writing is crystal clear and she says what she has to without mincing any words. You might have to keep track of the people she mentions on and off in the book, but there is a guide for that at the end of the book as well. I am completely taken in by her writing after reading this collection of essays and plan to read some more of her for sure. You must read this collection of essays for sure, if history is of any interest to you.