2021 Book # 53 – Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Title: Brass
Author: Xhenet Aliu
Date finished: 7/15/21
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: January 23, 2018
Pages in book: 306
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when she learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where Bashkim’s heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind.

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she’s stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie—a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

Told in equally gripping parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story.

My rating:  2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was interested in this book based on the description – I grew up about 15 minutes from Waterbury so I’m pretty familiar with the area and I was interested in reading a book centered around someone from there. It was fun to see so many local things mentioned in the book, like nearby towns and restaurants. Other than that though I couldn’t find much interest in the story line of the book. I found both POV’s to be immature and somewhat annoying. The plot of the story was also pretty depressing, and if I’m being honest the ending felt like a rip off and left a lot of things unresolved. The story line was interesting in some parts but overall was just not something that I personally enjoyed. I thought the author’s voice was very interesting and that she told the story well, it just wasn’t a story line that I personally found much enjoyment in.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #38 – Girls of Tender Age by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

817Y2sZ62aL

Title: Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir
Author: Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Date finished: 4/27/15
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: January 11, 2006
Pages in book: 285
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

In Girls of Tender Age, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that ofAngela’s Ashes with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent predator that holds the emotional and cultural resonance of The Lovely Bones.
Smith’s Hartford neighborhood is small-town America, where everyone’s door is unlocked and the school, church, library, drugstore, 5 & 10, grocery, and tavern are all within walking distance. Her family is peopled with memorable characters — her possibly psychic mother who’s always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her adoring father who makes sure she has something to eat in the morning beyond her usual gulp of Hershey’s syrup, her grandfather who teaches her to bash in the heads of the eels they catch on Long Island Sound, Uncle Guido who makes the annual bagna cauda, and the numerous aunts and cousins who parade through her life with love and food and endless stories of the old days. And then there’s her brother, Tyler.
Smith’s household was “different.” Little Mary-Ann couldn’t have friends over because her older brother, Tyler, an autistic before anyone knew what that meant, was unable to bear noise of any kind. To him, the sound of crying, laughing, phones ringing, or toilets flushing was “a cloud of barbed needles” flying into his face. Subject to such an assault, he would substitute that pain with another: he’d try to chew his arm off. Tyler was Mary-Ann’s real-life Boo Radley, albeit one whose bookshelves sagged under the weight of the World War II books he collected and read obsessively.
Hanging over this rough-and-tumble American childhood is the sinister shadow of an approaching serial killer. The menacing Bob Malm lurks throughout this joyous and chaotic family portrait, and the havoc he unleashes when the paths of innocence and evil cross one early December evening in 1953 forever alters the landscape of Smith’s childhood.
Girls of Tender Age is one of those books that will forever change its readers because of its beauty and power and remarkable wit.

My rating: 4 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book was lent to me by my friend from work, Jim Lyons. He lent it to me last year though, and since I am an awful person I haven’t read it yet. Therefore at the beginning of the year I added it to my list for the Roof Beam Reader TBR Pile Reading Challenge. I might have put this off a little because I usually read mostly fiction and this book was a memoir. I have to be honest though, I loved this book. It was interesting, emotional, and riveting. It was especially interesting for me since I’ve lived in Connecticut my whole life and the book has a lot of different Connecticut facts included in the memoir.
I don’t usually read many non-fiction books but the author lays out the story in a very interesting way. There are a variety of issues addressed in this memoir, including the murder of Mary-Ann’s friend when they were young, dealing with Tyler’s autism before anyone knows what autism is, and a look at how sexual assault cases are addressed in the 1950’s. It looks at the friend’s murder from a child’s point of view and talks about how this affected her growing up. There were many emotions throughout the book, I was tearing up by the end. This was a very well written memoir and I am very glad that my friend Jim lent it to me to read!

The bottom line: Not my usual cup of tea but I loved it. Would recommend, particularly to people from CT.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page