You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Raincoast Books

Mitali Perkins brings to life three generations of Bengali women who wade through societal pressure and parental expectations to grow their own happiness. When we first meet Sonia and Tara Das, they are on the plane on their way to New York from London where they spent their younger years. Tara is the elder sister and the apple of her mother’s eyes, being more conventionally beautiful. Sonia, on the other hand, is more outspoken, more like her father, and more likely to rebel against what everyone wants her to be and do. She especially doesn’t get along with her mother who, she feels, keeps trying to shove her into a role defined by the patriarchy that she has no interest in playing.

Tara has aspirations of being an actor while Sonia is extremely smart. The reader journeys with them from Flushing, New York to New Jersey through a sudden death that rips a family and a decision that estranges Sonia from her mother. We meet the grandchildren, Sonia’s daughter Chantal and Tara’s daughter, Anna, and we revisit with Ranee, their grandmother who becomes more fleshed out and more present in the latter half of the story.

Unlike other sweeping sagas that follow many generations, You Bring the Distant Near is a quick paced romp that will be sure to entertain its target readers. The novel brings to the forefront many contemporary issues such as race, religion, and culture, delving into what it means to be immigrant and what it means to be hapa. It touches upon patriotism and even includes Islamophobia. Told with a lot of heart and humour, the novel will have readers chuckling at times and crying at others. You Bring the Distant Near is a story about the relationships between sisters, between mothers and daughters, and between women. I recommend it.