When I was young, I got around—reading three or four books at the same time, juggling plots, themes, and characters with abandon, but now I’m a responsible reader—no longer one of those flighty, ‘I’m-going-to-read-around’ kind of gals. Or so I thought, but the last two months have found me playing fast and loose with my reading again. Starting a book, then ignoring it to pick up another, setting that one aside. I want to be head over heels but here are two novels that gave me serious commitment issues and so are ending up as It’s Not You, It’s Me.
Two families, one bomb, seven lives irrevocably changed. The Association of Small Bombs takes place in Delhi, India and the bomb is part of the ongoing conflict between Hindus and Muslims.For one family it kills their two young boys while leaving their Muslim friend injured but alive. Author Karan Mahajan deals with the event and its aftermath from the perspective of the boys’ families, bomb makers and an NGO that tries to help the accused men get a fair trial.
Mahajan explores many themes in Small Bombs, but none fully develop and rather than insight into the political, economic, and religious issues of the times the actions of the characters feel formulaic. Sadly, the novel meanders to the point I set it aside repeatedly for days. With this kind of material Small Bombs should have the same propulsion as an explosion, but it simply doesn’t.
I was ready to commit to Country of Red Azaleas by Dominica Radulescu but it did not return my passion. The story is of Lara and Marija, women who have been friends since they were seven and Yugoslavia was Communist. They attend college in Belgrade and after the USSR dissolves and the ethnic hatreds that have been held in check by Communism erupt they are separated. Marija is Muslim and Lara is Christian. Lara falls in love with an American who gets her out of the country before the atrocities begin, but Marija stays behind as a political correspondent and agitator.
The premise of genocide and rape as a form of warfare are more than enough to create a deeply affecting novel, but Country does not come together in that way. Instead, it feels as if Radulescu can’t find her footing. This uncertainty leaches off the page to the point where, with less than 50 pages left and Lara finally trying to find this woman who was supposed to be her dearest friend, I was apathetic. Maybe my expectations were too high; I thought I’d be swept away by the emotional complexities of friends divided and separated by the world around them and this never happened. I never felt this book and by its end I did not understand the characters or events at all.
Are you having commitment issues? Leaving one book for another you think will be more exciting? Or has your spring been one of exciting reading?