Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Brass.jpg

Brass
by Xhenet Aliu
Random House (January 23, 2018)
302 pages
Advance copy provided by publisher

I've always been interested in the stories that we tell one another, especially those we love, in an effort to guard or protect each other from painful truths, harsh realities and negative feelings. In her debut novel, Xhenet Aliu shares the lives of Elsie and Luljeta, a mother and daughter, and they beautifully quench my thirst for the types of stories that both build and break. 

You feel like you have some version of that disease which makes people believe that their limbs aren’t really theirs, so they travel to Indonesia and pay doctors big American dollars to amputate their not-their arm or not-their leg, only you have a version where you feel like you ended up in a family that isn’t really yours, surrounded by bodies that are just a little off.

While I braced myself for emotionally-heavy fare, equipped with an acknowledgement of my own broken parental relationship, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of laughing I did while reading this novel; I found the perfect balance of thoughtful prose and witty, sarcastic observation. 

Your mother’s plan has been for you to be the first in the family to never have to rely on government assistance, to live a life of such comfort that when early heart disease sets in, you won’t even have the will to swallow your daily prescribed beta-blockers.

Most notably, as Elsie and Luljeta each evolve and mature individually and in relationship to one another, the men in the background have a significant role but they never stand out; in Brass, the shine belongs solely to these strong, persistent women who work so hard to escape the dead ends they encounter at every turn.

Your plan, meanwhile, is to bloom into something freakish but interesting and impossible to ignore, like a corpse flower. [...] You’ll be wild and mysterious, like the father you’re not supposed to want to resemble.

Instead of feeling despondent or discouraged by the seemingly endless obstacles, I found myself feeling hopeful; I was left with a profound sense of empowerment and resilience that speaks to the remarkable writing of this brave new author. I will not soon forget these characters! 

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella