Book Review: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters
by Joshilyn Jackson

Synopsis: A dysfunctional Southern family learns secrets about one another.

The main character is Leia Birch Briggs, a 38 year-old white woman from a traditional Southern family. She works as a comic book artist. She’s done the artwork for other’s graphic novels, but she also wrote a popular graphic novel. One that did well enough that she’s under contract to write the origin story for her character. I liked that the main character was a nerd. She loved graphic novels, Wonder Woman, and other nerdy type things.

At the beginning of the novel, Leia finds out she’s pregnant… From a one night stand. At a comic convention. With a guy dressed as Batman. Also, Batman was a black guy. So, not something she’s excited to tell her family. Also, she doesn’t remember the guy’s name or how to contact him.

Shortly after discovering she’s pregnant, Leia is summoned to Alabama to help her grandmother Birchie. With the help of her best friend Wattie, Birchie has been hiding her illness and dementia. However, while at a social event, Birchie acts very unlike herself and her secret is out. After Leia arrives in Birchville, Alabama, she finds out Birchie wasn’t only hiding her illness, but also other, darker secrets.

While dealing with all of this, Leia is also trying to help her stepsister Rachel. Rachel’s marriage is in trouble and Leia wants to help, but usually Rachel’s the one fixing everyone else’s problems. Rachel and her daughter Lavender end up in Birchville with Leia, Birchie, and Wattie.

This novel is humorous, yet deals with difficult topics. I loved the writing. It was an enjoyable read and stayed up late to finish this novel. I haven’t read anything by Joshilyn Jackson before, but now I want to pick up some other books by her.

Book Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young
by Gabrielle Zevin

Jane Young was once Aviva Grossman. Aviva was in her early twenties when she was an intern for a Florida Congressman. She had an affair with him, and it adversely affected her future. While the Congressman was forgiven and his career and marriage survived, Aviva was unable to find work and had to move away and change her name.

This story is divided into five sections and is told from different points of view. The first section is from Rachel’s, Aviva’s mother, point of view and includes some history of the scandal. The second section is from Jane’s point of view and covers what is currently happening in her life. The third section is from Ruby’s, Jane’s daughter, point of view and covers current events. The fourth chapter is from Embeth’s, the Congressman’s wife, point of view about current events. The final section is from Aviva/Jane’s point of view and covers the scandal to current events.

I liked the different viewpoints in this novel. While Aviva obviously made a poor decision as a young woman, the scandal did not only affect her life, but those of other’s too. Her parents, primarily her mother, had to deal with the consequences of Aviva’s affair. The Congressman’s wife, Embeth, had to deal with public scrutiny of her marriage and her decision to stay with her husband. These women all made mistakes, but they were also strong in their own ways.

I enjoyed the writing and it was an easy reading novel. This was a quick read, but it dealt with some important topics, mainly the differences that men and women face when such scandals arise.

Book Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Nikki is at a bit of a standstill in her life and is looking for a new direction. She dropped out of law school and is currently working as a bartender, much to the disappointment of her family. While at a local community center in a London Punjabi neighborhood, she notices a job posting for a creative writing class. She takes the job thinking it will help her resume and it will be a way she can save up some extra money.

At the first class meeting, she is surprised to learn that the women, who are all Punjabi widows, cannot read or write English. They are in class to learn English, not how to write short stories.

Before the next class, Nikki stops in a shop to purchase some materials to help the women learn English. On a lark, she also picks up a book of erotic stories to send her sister as a joke. While Nikki steps away from class, one of the women, the only one who can read and write English, notices the book in Nikki’s bag and starts reading aloud to the class. This leads to the women laughing and saying they would rather read and write stories like that than the children’s study materials Nikki has given them.

In a way, the class becomes a creative writing class after all. The women tell erotic stories, with the one woman who writes English writing everything down as the women tell them. Since it would not be safe for the women if others found out about what they were up to, they need to keep it quiet about what they do in class. Eventually, word starts to spread about the class.

This Punjabi neighborhood is a very traditional Sikh community. The widows were all in arranged marriages, some of which were not so good. They consider themselves to be invisible in the community. Nikki is a young woman who identifies as British and Punjabi and Sikh, but she leads a more independent and Western lifestyle than most in the Punjabi community. This opens the door for Nikki to introduce new ideas and help the women learn to express themselves.

I found Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows to be a very interesting read. It’s a story of immigrants, with a bit of feminism thrown in, plus some steamy storytelling. I loved how these lonely, isolated women became stronger and more independent as the story progressed. And it’s not just about the older women, Nikki learns a few things herself as the story moves along. It’s a great story about women being supportive of one another. It’s written in a lighthearted way, and is both amusing and uplifting.

I would consider this novel to fall under the genre of contemporary fiction, but be aware that the stories the women tell are erotic in nature.