Can’t get away but want to feel like you’ve traveled? I recommend these five stories to get your Fall full of far-away places that will make you feel as if you did leave home, even if you don’t get further than your back yard!
The Newlyweds, by Neil Freudenberger
This tale about all types of love captured my heart. The story features intercontinental online dating (New York to Bangladesh) and moments in rural Bangladesh, all set against this modern-day electronic story of boy-meets-girl-and-falls-in-love. Yet it is so much more complicated with the love and crushes of both boy and girl and all of the parents and cousins and their various issues on both sides of the ocean.
The idea of integrity in love and how much of the truth is enough to tell your partner are themes that weave the story together. “She had escaped a broken country, and George a broken heart, they had chosen each other in spite of warnings from both sites, and she thought those naysayers had made them more determined that their union would succeed.”
But I am waiting for “the Newlyweds TWO!” I want to know what happens next. I highly recommend this book.
Then Came You, by Jennifer Weiner
This book is not set in a another far-away land but does remind me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale not in topic if not in tone. I felt I had traveled while reading this novel. The story is told from multiple points of view of the many women involved. Each life is full of so many details and stories that I felt transported into their challenges and triumphs.
I marveled at how complicated and intertwined our lives have become in the twenty-first century as we create ways to bring children into the world, methods that people from prior centuries would think were either magic, godly or the demonically incarnate. I was so entranced I finished this book in nearly one sitting.
The story has stayed with me and I have wondered about the character’s choices and what I might do in each of their very different spots along the way.
American Dervish, A Novel by Ayad Akhtar
In Akhtar’s book, we learn about growing up Muslim in a Pakistani house in small town USA!! Hayat must juggle his faith, his two countries and his family. His dad believes in him but is nearly broken by the struggle to support his family and bridge the divide between himself and his wife and his son. When his mother’s best friend, Mina, comes to live with them, she brings her light, her love of the Muslim religion and is his teacher, friend and first crush.
There is drama involving fights, hospital stays, families breaking and mending like the bones that must do the same, arguments about faith, family, Jews and Muslims, all set against Hayat’s coming of age and learning to live with his decisions.
Aunt Mina says to Hayat: “You can’t live life by rules other give you. In that way, you and I are the same. You have to find your own rules. All my life I’ve been running away form their rules, Hayat. All my life. You will be the same. Don’t ask me how I know it, but I do.” Mina’s arrival and hasty departure teach Hayat many life lessons. The mature themes in this story are deeply upsetting at times but there is much to be learned from this searing portrait of one family and how all the members impact each other so strongly.
Letter from A Stranger, by Barbara Taylor Bradford
I have to admit that I almost gave up on this book. I started it and thought, What am I reading? but I am glad that I persevered. This tale is set mostly in Istanbul and made me really want to return with its sensory descriptions of the locations, food and souks.
There is a book within the book here with Gabriele’s search for her Gran and then the discovery of why the family connections have been severed. The story includes surviving the war in Berlin while hiding in the basement of a bombed out building, along with so much more, but I don’t want to spoil the storyline for you.
The description of this tale, like the location it matches, reminds me of what Gabriele says about “how odd it is to be here in Istanbul and straddled between Europe and Asia Minor, literally on two continents at once.” She must figure out how to straddle all the information and discoveries she uncovers. Along with the intrigue and the intercontinental discoveries there is love, which mends so much of what has been broken in this family’s past.
Cloak, by James Gough
This YA Fantasy novel is a fantastic romp through the life of Will Tuttle, who starts the story as the Boy in the Bubble with an incredible list of life-threatening childhood allergies that have not cleared up in the nearly six foot-tall thirteen year old. Experimental medication has not been helping but I love his attitude and spunk, and his descriptions of seeing things that just did not seem possible.
His physician, Dr. Nocuta, tells him, “I suspect that your view of the world is very different than most. You see things that are not supposed to exist, creatures that have no logical place in reality. True?” This adventure will have you on the edge of your seat wondering who are these creatures and what will happen next!
A highly enjoyable read full of Special Branch antics and “a team of misfits protecting an outcast..”
Hope that whatever you do, you are traveling in body or in spirit.
Lisa Niver Rajna is a science teacher, 2012 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and member of the Traveler’s Century Club for those who have traveled to more than 100 countries. She would never leave home without a good book to read. Find her @wesaidgotravel (twitter) or connect with http://xeeme.com/LisaNiverRajna