Category Archives: Putnam Books

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists Title: The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-0735213180
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

What would you do if you knew the day of your death? How would you live your life differently, or would you? What do you think it would be like for you? Also, what would it be if each of your siblings also knew the day of their death? Would your relationships be any different? How would life then play out? These questions and more haunted me as I was reading, “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin.

“The Immortalists” might seem like that one book which you read a while ago but it isn’t. There is so much and more to the book that you cannot compare it with anything you’ve read before, so I suggest you don’t even try and read it with an open-mind at the very best.

The story starts off in New York in 1969, when we meet the Gold children – Varya 13, Daniel 11, Klara 9 and Simon who is 7 years old. They belong to a religious Jewish family and are close to their parents. A psychic is heard of by one of the children – someone who has set camp nearby and four of them head out to meet her, who is known to predict the date of someone’s death. She individually tells them each the day they will die. This is where the story begins.

The novel is divided into four sections, each for one child, and we traverse through their lives, trying to understand what happens to each of them as they live and whether or not the prediction comes true.

I am not going to give away any spoilers here but all I can say is that this book has the power to leave you stunned and asking for more answers. Who was the psychic? What happens? What does not happen and why? All of this makes you turn the pages anyway but Benjamin’s writing does not seem new. She doesn’t write like a debut novelist. The craft is so precise – every scene comes alive; every emotion wrenches you and you can’t help but mull over it.

The dynamics of the siblings with each other and their mother is another thing that will make you relate to the book to a very large extent. Also, what they choose to share with each other and don’t forms such a major part of the book. What I also loved was the role time plays this book – with it hanging so severely on their heads and yet it is in a way so subtle – moving at its own pace and making the siblings realize the value or life or not.

“The Immortalists” is the kind of book which will have you thinking about life, more and everything in between. This book is hard to put down once you start it. Benjamin will literally make you cry (be prepared for it) and smile almost in the same page. It is a book which truly deserves all accolades and more this year. Read it. You will not be disappointed.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh Title: My Sunshine Away
Author: M.O. Walsh
Publisher: Putnam, Penguin USA
ISBN: 9780399169526
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 307
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are books that open universes up for you. There are books that make you see life differently and make you realize that maybe growing-up is so much more than what meets the eye. It is about decisions, choices and consequences. For me, off-late there was a growing-up book that had that kind of impact the way “My Sunshine Away” by M.O. Walsh has had and in the truest sense of the word, I cannot even call it just a coming-of-age book when there is so much more to it. Also, let me add here that this is a debut novel that will knock you off your feet.

“My Sunshine Away” is set in the late-eighties in Baton Rouge, in Southern USA. It starts with a crime – the rape of a fifteen year-old girl Lindy Simpson and that is when life changes for the entire town. The idyllic suburbia is no longer what it used to be or what its residents perceived it to be. The narrator of the story was fourteen when the crime took place and he loved Lindy and how the crime and the events that followed changed him completely. The book delves deep into the psychology and limitations of human emotions and what it means to be human more than anything else.

What makes this book so different is the way it is structured. It is not just another coming-of-age story nor is it just another mystery, nor is it just another literary fiction debut. There is to more what meets the eye in this book. There are secrets that people living in every place keep to protect their loved ones. It is a lament to growing-up and innocence lost. There is a lot of guilt laced on the pages of this book, not to forget love in its purest and not-so-purest forms.

The element of the Louisiana mystery is all-pervading and almost delicious as the novel unfolds. It is a part of the story for sure but there is something else to it. The late-eighties and early-nineties nuances are captured to every single detail – the late night conversations to watching a TV show at a designated time to unfolding mysteries about yourself as you grow-up to becoming an adult from a teenager.

M.O Walsh’s prose is biting in most places and so tender in the others. There is a good mix of empathy and cruelty that shines from the pages. The book makes you realize and mull over vulnerability and what safety means. “My Sunshine Away” I think in most ways just holds a mirror to the way we live and how we really are. The book wants to make you believe in so many things nice about life and at the same time makes you see the dark places as well. I for one could not stop turning the pages on this one and highly recommend it to one and all as their next read this summer.

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Book Review: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway

Title: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns
Author: Margaret Dilloway
Publisher: Putnam Adult
ISBN: 978-0399157752
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I have not been a fan of the regular run-of-the-mill women fiction. I somehow cannot relate to it and more so I do not feel for the characters. I try and avoid reading such books. I try and then I give up in some cases. But the one that I am about to review now was a different experience altogether.

“The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns” by Margaret Dilloway was a different one. It was not run-of-the-mill and neither was it predictable. Margaret Dilloway has written a book which is emotional without being sentimental. I did not choke at any point and yet my heart went out to the main character. Maybe that is what is known as the power of good writing. It manages to evoke feelings in readers.

Gal has a kidney disease. Gal also loves roses. She gets a surprise visit from her niece, Riley. She doesn’t want to take care of her niece and her own set of issues simmering beneath the façade.

The title is self-explanatory and gets clearer as the reader surges ahead. The characters are well-etched and yet somehow seem a little distant to relate to, maybe because of the situation they are embroiled in.

The writing is intelligent and you can connect with it in some places. The plot also reminded me of “Fire on the Mountain” by Anita Desai to some extent. I liked how the love of roses and its care was explained in detail (but obviously) in the book. The small town colour and charm is fascinating. Every detail is taken care of in the writing and that is how it should be, while writing a book about solitary living in a small town. The idea of breeding champion roses and Gal wanting to be a winner is so endearing that you are hooting for her throughout the book.

The book is slow to get started with, but once you do, you are stuck. The dynamics between Gal and Riley are brilliantly depicted and that’s the core of the story anyway (well more or less). So I managed to read a book of the so-called, “women fiction” genre and loved it. I am stepping to the other side of fiction. On a more serious note, do read this book. It is simple, sweet and a nourishing tale of relationships formed, with the acceptance of roses with the thorns.

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Book Review: Overseas by Beatriz Williams

Title: Overseas
Author: Beatriz Williams
Publisher: Putnam Adult
ISBN: 978-0399157646
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I do not read romance novels, so I was a bit hesitant to read, “Overseas” by Beatriz Williams. It was touted as a romance novel, and let me tell you, that that is a misconception when it comes to this one. It is very different from the genre and the change is refreshing.

“Overseas” is a love-story. That I have to agree, however it is different and when I say that, I mean it. It has almost everything mixed in it – sci-fi, romance, historical element and contemporary adult fiction and may be that is why it serves the purpose of being a book for almost all types of readers.

It is 2007. Kate Wilson works on Wall Street – she is the regular analyst who meets billionaire investment genius Julian Laurence at a meeting. He can have any woman in the world. She is attracted to him from the first sight. What she doesn’t know is a past that starts right from France during World War I. When she does come to know, she is in for a big shock and a surprise that will change her life forever.

Some reviewers compare this book to the Outlander Series or to The Time Traveler’s Wife. I did not find that comparison suitable. For me as a standalone novel it was quite a satisfactory read. Thought I must also add that at some point, I found it a bit too conversational and descriptive. The book is not realistic. Remember that before picking it up. It is set in a time and place where maybe you cannot relate to it, but want it nonetheless – a star-crossed romance. Now to the positives.

I loved the way the book was written when it came to the plot. Agreed that it is a Cinderella type-of-romance, but I give it to Ms. Williams for the way she has thought of the plot in her head and put it on paper. The central characters are well-developed and add to the root of the story. Ms. Williams does not let her characters change themselves for the sake of romance and that was one of the things which I loved about the book, besides others.

As a debut novel, Overseas is very-well written. It is a light read and may be as a reader, I need to remind myself that I need a read like this once a while. A good harmless fantasy and romance read always helps once a while. I actually cannot wait to read Beatriz William’s next book.