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.

Dog-Eared: August 2017

Dog-Eared: August 2017

The opening skit of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival (2017) in Mineapolis, starring James Kennedy, Keir Graff, and Kelly Barnhill pokes fun at what Kennedy calls “this weird tendency to kill animals in children’s books.” Kennedy describes the skit: A devil’s-bargain device is revealed, Kate DiCamillo is affectionately denounced, there is some (tasteful!) murder, and […]

Review: Goldie Vance

Review: Goldie Vance

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity. She lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and it’s her dream to one day become the hotel’s in-house detective. When Walter, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, together they utilize her smarts, skills and connections to solve the […]

The Legend of Lightning and Thunder by Paula Ikuutaq; illustrated by Jo Rioux

The Legend of Lightning and Thunder by Paula Ikuutaq; illustrated by Jo Rioux

Paula Ikuutaq’s retelling of the Inuit Legend of Lightning and Thunder opens with a celebration. It is spring, and Inuit people gather together in camps to sing, to dance, and to feast: to share their happiness with each other. Two orphaned siblings, however, are not so happy. A girl and her younger brother have traveled a long […]

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

Red Cedar fiction nominee (2017/2018) Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami is completely and utterly charming. It is a sweet, gentle, clear-eyed story about a girl who loves books, and what happens when she rouses her community to activism on behalf of Book Uncle, an elderly man who runs a free lending library. Here’s the […]

Review: Ruby’s Wish

Review: Ruby’s Wish

Ruby is unlike most little girls in old China. Instead of aspiring to get married, Ruby is determined to attend university when she grows up, just like the boys in her family. Based upon the inspirational story of the author’s grandmother and accompanied by richly detailed illustrations, Ruby’s Wish is an engaging portrait of a […]

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

I have a number of things to get done, and you are quite obviously someone who gets things done.” (p. 346-347) As I mentioned earlier, Stacey Lee’s Outrun the Moon has my new favourite protagonist, Mercy Wong, THE most indomitable, march into your heart and take no prisoners young woman I’ve had the pleasure of reading […]