Search Library Catalog
September 9, 2010 Edition
In 1946, convinced that Russia was about to defeat the United States, Joseph Stalin called together some of Russia’s best science fiction writers, including Konstantin Andreiovich Skvorecky, to create a new enemy for Communism. What Stalin wanted was an alien invasion, and the writers got busy creating a plausible one for him, complete with armed spaceships poisoning Ukraine. Suddenly Stalin called a halt to the work and ordered the writers to forget they ever had begun. Years later, two of the writers meet by chance and begin to compare notes. Skvorecky has been feeling that something isn’t right with the world, and Frenkel explains that everything the writers imagined all those years ago is coming true. Skvorecky finds himself caught between two groups of fanatical believers in UFOs: one that wants to warn humanity about the imminent invasion, and another that is working to bring the aliens safely to Earth. But how can a piece of fiction come true? This is science fiction reminiscent of Vonnegut, with a dry wit all its own.
When Jasmine Fahroodhi flunks out of the University of Chicago just before graduation, she doesn’t get a second chance. Instead, her Iranian-born father turns traditional on her and brings her home so he can arrange a marriage for her, and, surprisingly, Jasmine’s American mother goes along with the plan. Jasmine herself protests the idea by cutting her hair (short!) and devising ways to make herself too unsavory for the traditional suitor without permanently damaging her reputation. But she puts up with the process, in part because of the surprising insights she finds she is gaining about her parents and their marriage. Part intergenerational chick-lit, part culture-clash drama, this debut novel’s beautiful language will pull readers in.
Just before he dies, Rebecca’s father confesses to her that she has a half-sister somewhere in Maine that he’s never met. Now Rebecca, an only child and an orphan, is determined to turn Joy into family. Leaving Michael, her almost-fiance, behind in New York City, Rebecca heads north to track Joy down, imagining what it will be like to have a sister at last. But Joy’s not interested in sisters who fall out of the sky and really feels no need to bring Rebecca into her own crumbling family. Eventually, curiosity wins out and before she knows it, Rebecca has acquired a dog, a cottage, friends, and maybe even a sister in Maine, and she’s not sure when – or if – she’s going back to New York or to Michael.
The interconnected short stories in this intense book involve the vast household of Harouni, an aging feudal landlord in modern-day Lahore. Readers meet Nawab, a poor electrician working hard to provide dowries for his twelve daughters through cunning and resourcefulness, who is confronted by a thief desperate for Nawab’s most valuable possession. Several stories deal with the plight of women in this male-centric world. There is Husna, who arrives in Harouni’s home looking for a job and finds brief happiness and power in being his mistress – until she is turned out of the house after his death, and Saleema, whose love for Rafik redeems them both, but isn’t enough to protect her from the streets in the end. In each story, joy is temporary and quickly followed by a return to the misery of everyday life: despite this, the views of Pakistani life that these stories give are mesmerizing.