Bright Lines

Penguin. Aug. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780143123132. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101600603. F
OrangeReviewStarA writer whose work has appeared in Feminist Wire and Open City magazine, as well as a multimedia artist and founder of Hi Wildflower Botanica, Islam makes a wonderful debut with this novel about a Bangladeshi American family living in Brooklyn. Ella was orphaned as a child by her parents' murder following the Bangladesh Liberation War and doesn't feel at home when she comes to live with her Uncle Anwar, Aunt Hashi, and cousin Charu. To complicate matters, Charu's friend, Maya, is sleeping in Charu's bed when she arrives, and as their friendship grows, Ella is forced to confront her sexual identity. Meanwhile, Anwar harbors his own secret, one that threatens his 30-year marriage. When tragedy strikes and the Saleems are blamed, they travel to Bangladesh to reckon with the past.
VERDICT The beauty of this novel is that it perfectly merges fascinating narrative, honest characters, and the rich history and culture of Bangladesh with the juxtaposition of Bangladesh's past and future and of that country with America, adding to the reading pleasure. For lovers of both literary and historical fiction; the anthology Beirut 39: New Writing from the Arab World is excellent complementary reading.
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