Category Archives: (story)time

(story)time: Broken Verses by Kamila Shamsie

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Last week the blog was silent because we took off on a family road trip over spring break. I posted some photos on IG, but I’ll do a trip post soon, probably this weekend. In the meantime, I got some more reading done, so I thought I’d do some quick posts here.


Broken Verses by Kamila Shamsie was first published over a decade ago. I came across it on a reading list somewhere recently, and I’ve been waiting for my turn to borrow it from the library. The book is set in Karachi, Pakistan, post-9/11, and focuses on a young, upper class woman working on a local television quiz show. Aasmaani is still grappling with the disappearance of her mother, a famous Pakistani activist, and the brutal murder of her mother’s lover, the beloved Poet of Pakistan, two years before her mother goes missing. Because of the mysterious circumstances around their death / disappearance, Aasmaani has been unable to move through the grief process, and is clinging to any hope of a future reunion – seeing clues in both the real and imagined.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, because I think it’s important for the thoughts and letters and search to unfold in Aasmaani’s time. But I will tell you that this is a book to linger over, and to reread in sections. Shamsie’s prose is rich and textured – the lines are really blurred between the Poet’s work and his words, and the words of others. The themes of grief – and grief avoided – as well as clinical depression and familial love are powerful and real. The undercurrents of political movements throughout the 70’s and 80’s, and into the 90’s/post-9/11 are a timely read (aren’t so many things these days, if we’re being honest?).

I’ve been on a bit of a mother-daughter / parent-child run in my reading lately. Unintentional, but very powerful.

(story)time: The Mothers by Brit Bennett


A few people have recommended The Mothers by Brit Bennett to me recently, and after I wrote about The Turner House, and Kendra mentioned it again, I quickly put it on my library reserve list. I read it within a week, which is a record pace for me at this particular point in my life. I was immediately swept into the story and the secret that is carried throughout the book.

Stepping out a bit from the story, what I thought about the most as I read and after I finished reading, was the idea of this collective community – a village of sorts – involved in the raising of three children into adulthood. Is a secret ever really a secret in this sort of community? “The Mothers” speak occasionally throughout the book as a singular voice; observers of the young, but not actively engaged in their raising. (But perfectly free to discuss their observations – and opinions – amongst themselves.) The literal mothers of the three are complicated as well – choosing to exit their children’s lives prematurely, physically or emotionally, but influencing them still through their absence or withdrawal.

I’m drawn to stories with characters that are simultaneously intimately connected and distantly estranged. The weaving of their stories are powerful and compelling, and in the case of this book, often heartbreaking.

I’m excited to read more of Bennett’s work. What an incredible debut novel.

(story)time: Revolver by Duane Swierczynski


As I mentioned in my last book post, I’ve been working my way through Nancy Pearl’s book recommendations lately. I just finished Revolver by Duane Swierczynski on Friday evening. If I was the kind of person who had the time to read a book in one sitting, this would have been that book. I love a good crime / mystery novel, and this one had several overlapping stories that spanned three generations of a family and more than seventy years of a city, from prohibition to the present day in Philadelphia.

Like The Turner House, this book jumped back and forth through time, chapter by chapter, focusing on 1965 / 1995 / 2015. The centerpiece is the unsolved murder of two cops while they were having a drink at a corner bar. One white cop, one black cop, gunned down in the prime of their careers, both leaving behind wives and teenaged sons. Twenty-five years later, the son of the white cop – now an officer as well – is in the middle of another high-profile case while also privately stalking a man he suspected was responsible for his father’s death. Twenty-five years after that, his granddaughter takes on the cold case herself, and uncovers hidden family secrets that reach back into the bootlegging days of the city.

In the author’s acknowledgements, he talks of being fascinated about police/citizen relations, the desegregation of police forces, the changes in cities and crime and police practices over the past century. He states that he started writing the book before the events in Ferguson, MO happened, but as those events unfolded here, he incorporated them into the story as well.

Last year I read the book Race, Place and Suburban Policing: Too Close for Comfort, by Andrea Boyles – a friend and co-worker of my friend, Brooke. (Many of you know Brooke well.) Brooke invited me to attend a Stand Against Racism talk with a panel of local authors. Boyles was one of them, and I checked out her book soon after hearing her speak at the event. Revolver, as fiction, touches on so much of the research shared in Race, Place  – in much the same way as The Turner House felt like a fictional continuation of the stories in The Warmth of Other Suns. Revolver examines the role of race throughout the book – within the police department, in interactions between police and citizens, where resources are focused, how race factors into an investigation, how members of a family reveal (or hide) secrets from one another. Excellent read – I’m looking forward to reading more of Swierczynski’s work.