Debut author Pia Padukone explores cultural identity, grief and how we love in her novel, Where Earth Meets Water. Karom Seth is haunted by his brushes with fate: he should have been in the Twin Towers for a school project on 9/11, and he should have been at the family reunion when a tsunami on the Indian coast claimed his entire family in 2004. Karom is left with his grief, his guilt and his father's cherished Rolex. His girlfriend, Gita, invites him on a trip to India in hopes of helping him find answers and closure, and Gita's grandmother, Kamini, may be the one person that can point him in the right direction.
"Should the guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free of sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creatres sorrowing sighs,
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made,
To display thereby the creator's glory!"
"It's what Shah Jahan said about the Taj," Karom said, folding the paper back into his pocket. Gita closed her eyes and leaned against him. He wanted to comfort her, but he too felt let down. Nothing had happened. There had been no revelations.
Karom had been sure that he would leave the Taj Mahal with a deeper understanding of the world, of colors, of light, of love. He was sure that something magical would transform them, would transform him, the way he saw the world. He had placed too high an expectation on the Taj Mahal. After all, it was just a building. But it was a building that was homage to love, homage to the departed. He'd wondered if he would catch a glimpse of the past here, if he might tap into the spirit of the palace, the serenity of the courtyards. He'd wondered if, like a sinner, he too might be absolved, washed pure and clean, and set into the streets refreshed. He'd wondered if he might put lingering ghosts to bed and feel, for the first time, at ease with himself and finally, finally have the strength to put the game to rest.
What are you reading this week?
The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Random House • $26 • ISBN 9780345528674
Published January 15, 2013
Anne, a shy woman with aspirations of her own, must stand in the shadow from her husband's spotlight as she discovers that her marriage to Charles will define her life in ways that she could have never anticipated.
This excerpt from early on in the book, after Charles proposes to Anne, illustrates her fascination with Charles, which continues throughout the novel:
But nothing could have prepared me for this moment. Nothing could have prepared me for marriage to a man like Charles Lindbergh; a man so unlike any other man I had ever known, those bankers, lawyers, academics. Here was a man who was good, brave, driven; these were the qualities I knew about him. That there were many more qualities, as yet hidden, occurred to me as well. But they could not be as important as what I did know.
That he was a quiet man, a disciplined man. A man who did not take responsibility lightly. A man who needed a partner, so that he would never have to fly solo across an ocean again.
The most famous man in the world, who saw me standing in the shadows and somehow knew that I was braver than I supposed. Already, I had flown an airplane because he believed that I could. What else might I do?
The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking • $26.95 • on sale February 6, 2012
Her follow-up, The Dark Rose, is just as creepy (filled with characters that are just as obsessive). In it, Paul and Louisa start a secret affair against the backdrop of an old Elizabethan garden. Paul was involved in a murder and ratted out his friend to avoid prison—and Louisa has some secrets of her own surrounding a man from her past named Adam. Louisa is renovating the garden, and she meets Paul when he's appointed to work there after his confession. They are connected from the moment they meet, because Paul looks eerily like Adam.
Here's an excerpt, from when Louisa first sees Paul (and mistakes him for Adam):
Louisa turned her attention back to the ruin. No matter how many times she saw it she could never quite commit the pattern of its stalagmites to memory. She let her hands trail along the damp walls, fingers lingering in ancient graffiti faded to indecipherable rune marks, wondering as ever who had stood here before her, what they had seen, and how faithfully she would be able to re-create their view. How light her workload would be if walls had mouths as well as ears, if these old stones could guide her through her project.
She did not expect anyone else to be up on the knoll and turned a bind corner without looking, head butting a chest that was at her eye level. She took a step back and so did he, his automatic "Sorry" gaining hers. Louisa raised her eyes. The apology died on her lips as she looked into the face of Adam Glasslake.
She gulped air that was like ice water, as though she'd been running on a freezing day. Her first thought was that the strength of her longing had finally called him into being, that she had conjured his spirit. For a ghost it had to be: Adam had not aged a day, and automatically, pathetically, she put her hand up to her own cheek, conscious of how different she must look to him, how old. But his breath misted the air like hers did, and his chest, when it collided with her forehead, had been warm. This was no face in a cloud, no phantom reflection. Confused, frightened, she flattened herself against the uneven wall, fingers splayed against the stone. Adam looked even more terrified than she.
Secrets of Bella Terra by Christina Dodd
Signet • $7.99 • ISBN 9780451413093
on sale August 2, 2011
Secrets of Bella Terra opens with a bang. Matriarch Sarah is attacked at home on her family's vineyard. Sarah's three grandsons come home to track down the perp, and one of them, Rafe, is drawn to an old flame . . .
Brooke had known the Di Luca brothers since she'd arrived in Bella Terra. They were all extraordinary, all handsome, all so wounded by their careless actor father and his various wives that Brooke knew Sarah despaired that any of them would marry and give her the great-grandchildren she craved.
But although Brooke was friends with Noah and Eli, it was Rafe she understood. It was Rafe with whom she bonded.
She didn't want to.
They just had so much in common: crummy fathers and enough childhood trauma that they had made it to adulthood only because they had found each other.
Then they had lost each other . . . found each other . . . lost each other . . .
Their relationship had been a boomerang of exhilarating highs and ghastly lows, and looking back, all she could do was shake her head at her youthful self.
Yet at times like these, as they sat side by side on the factory-original Mustang sport seats . . . she still knew Rafe Di Luca better than any person on earth.
What are you reading today?
The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
FSG • $18 • January 4, 2011
Valentine's Day is less than two weeks away, which means . . . well, I'm not sure what that means. I don't personally feel more romantic than usual during the month of February, although V-Day is always a great excuse to go out for a nice meal.
One thing I do know is that if people are asking me for Valentine's Day-themed books, I am recommending The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan (the author known for teen books like Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist).
This book tells the story of a relationship through dictionary entries. It's quirky and—yes—gimmicky, but I think it totally works in conveying the ups and downs (and in-betweens) of modern love. It's also a quick read that you'll want to breeze through in one sitting. Since reading The Lover's Dictionary, I've kept the book out on my coffee table as my lone Valentine's Day decoration and have enjoyed periodically flipping through it and reading random entries. Here are some examples:
breathtaking (adj.), "Those moments when we kiss and surrender for an hour before we say a single word."
fluke (n.), "The date before the one with you had gone so badly—egotist, smoker, bad breath—that I'd vowed to delete my profile the next morning. Except when I went to do it, I realized I only had eight days left in the billing cycle. So I gave it eight days. You emailed me on the sixth."
kefuffle (n.), "From now on, you are only allowed one drink at any of my office parties. One. Preferably a beer."
Roses by Leila Meacham
Grand Central, January 2010
At 600 pages, Roses is the kind of story that you’ll read under your desk, at the dinner table and through the middle of the night until you get to the end. We learn in the opening scene that cotton plantation matriarch Mary Toliver has unexpectedly changed her will at the end of her life. Meacham hooks us by offering no real explanation for this drastic move, and then shifts to the beginning of the 20th century, when Mary first inherits the plantation. The entire saga—filled with heartbreak, betrayal, power struggles and love—spans nearly 70 years. Looking for a good old-fashioned page-turner to gobble up this weekend? Roses fits the bill.
What are you reading today?
He gaped at her, truly shocked. “But, Mary, why?” You’ve had a marvelous life—a life that I thought you wished to bequeath to Rachel to perpetuate your family’s heritage. This codicil is so...” he swept the back of his hand over the document, “adverse to everything I thought you’d hoped for her—that you led her to believe you wanted for her.”
She slackened in her chair, a proud schooner with the wind suddenly sucked from her sails. She laid the cane across her lap. “Oh, Amos, it’s such a long story, far too long to go into here. Percy will have to explain it all to you someday.”
“Explain what, Mary? What’s there to explain?” And why someday, and why Percy? He would not be put off by a stab of concern for her. The lines about her eyes and mouth had deepened, and her flawless complexion had paled beneath its olive skin tone. Insistently, he leaned father over the desk. “What story don’t I know, Mary? I’ve read everything ever printed about the Tolivers and Warwicks and DuMonts, not to mention having lived among you for forty years. I’ve been privy to everything affecting each of you since I came to Howbutker. Whatever secrets you may have harbored would have come out. I know you.”
She lowered her lids briefly, fatigue clearly evident in their sepia-tinged folds. When she raised them again, her gaze was soft with affection. “Amos, dear, you came into our lives when our stories were done. You have known us at our best, when all our sad and tragic deeds were behind us and we were living with their consequences. Well, I want to spare Rachel from making the same mistakes I made and suffering the same, inevitable consequences. I don’t intend to leave her under the Toliver curse.”
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Whether you're celebrating Christmas or just celebrating a couple of days off, we're betting this long weekend will contain at least a few hours of reading time for most of you. It certainly will for me. Snug in my suitcase: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark and Crash Course by Paul Ingrassia. Neither of which has any connection to Christmas, but I'm sure to be getting enough holiday spirit from other sources!