The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2014, Vintage; 432 pages)
The Lowland is an engrossing family saga steeped in history: the story of two very different brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn apart by revolution, and a love that endures long past death.
Moving from the 1960s to the present, this is a many-layered story of culture, geography, politics, and emotion. Two brothers, born and raised in India, as close as brothers can be, yet as different as black and white, choose their paths, and the resulting effect is what creates the story. It's about family bonds, tension, and responsibility, in a story that is fraught with sadness.
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Recommended by: Ann
Maya's Notebook -- a tale of a girl’s journey toward self-discovery, of the fierce power of truth, and of the healing force of love
Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende (2014, Harper Perennial; 416 pages)
This contemporary coming-of-age story centers upon Maya Vidal, a remarkable teenager abandoned by her parents. Maya grew up in a rambling old house in Berkeley with her grandmother Nini, whose formidable strength helped her build a new life after emigrating from Chile in 1973 with a young son, and her grandfather Popo, a gentle African-American astronomer. When Popo dies, Maya goes off the rails. Along with a circle of girlfriends known as "the vampires," she turns to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime--a downward spiral that eventually leads to Las Vegas and a dangerous underworld, with Maya caught between warring forces: a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol.
Her one chance for survival is Nini, who helps her escape to a remote island off the coast of Chile. In the care of her grandmother’s old friend, Manuel Arias, and surrounded by strange new acquaintances, Maya begins to record her story in her notebook, as she tries to make sense of her past and unravel the mysteries of her family and her own life.
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Recommended by: Ann