By the 19th instalment, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency crew is well known to fans of the series. But I must say Sandy Smith is a master at giving background for possible new readers without making it boring for the regulars. I also noticed how certain characters are changing and growing–Charlie, who now works for both Mr. JLB Matekoni as well as Mma Ramotswe, is growing and maturing into a fine young man, which is something Mma Makutsi sure never expected!
A magazine article sparks a discussion about personal responsibility and social change and Mma Ramotswe is compelled to accept a challenge to run for city council, even though she has no desire or inclination towards a political position. Charlie is in love with a totally unsuitable woman, and not for the reasons you might think, and that old nemesis of Mma Makutsi’s (Violet Sephoto) shows up in a very likely and predictable spot!
Oh no! Just as I thought I was all caught up with this series, now I discover the 20th instalment on his website! The title is To the Land of Long Lost Friends and my library already has it on order. I do believe this author continues to write books faster than I can read them…
“A stunning novel about love, compassion, cruelty, and forgiveness–the very things that make families what they are.”
“A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that led to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.”
As much as a I love a twisting page-turner, this book reminded me that it’s also nice to read a thoughtful compelling family mystery at a more relaxed pace. As the narrative switches back and forth between various voices, depth of character and insight into relationship are achieved in a beautiful way. Transplanted culture can be difficult and complicated and I found the latter part of the novel very poignant when the father honestly shares his perspective on how things might have been different. The smallest decisions can lead to the deepest betrayals. Mirza deals deftly, hopefully, and gracefully with delicate subjects like guilt, misunderstanding, regret, and loss.
Mirza is a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop which is a common denominator in many of the authors that I have enjoyed and was championed by Sarah Jessica Parker, another one of the celebrities who are endorsing books (others include Reese Witherspoon and of course Oprah). This book does have a slower pace and may not be for everyone, but I found it held my interest, was definitely moving, and was a joy to read. Here is an interview with the author that highlights the author’s maturity beyond her years:
This novel has good reviews and has been recommended as ‘ambitious’ and ‘absorbing’ but I must be an outlier on this, because I was disappointed. Even though I usually like sinking into family sagas, I found the drama bland and the characters two-dimensional. The author didn’t make me care about the characters or their dilemmas at all.
The story line is roughly this: three sisters and a brother are single-parented by a mother who is not coping. For three years the mother is emotionally and physically absent, clinically depressed, and rarely emerges from her bedroom.This is referred to in the book as The Pause. The children are pretty much left to fend for themselves during this time, and these parts were actually some of the best scenes in the book with their trips to the pond and their antics with friends. But when The Pause becomes pivotal and defining for the siblings as adults later on, it all fell apart for me and got really boring. It reminded me of the The Nest, which was also one I was in the minority by not liking.