Book 157: INSIDE OUT Review

I recently saw an ad for a book on Goodreads.com that piqued my interest and the result was the purchase of Inside Out by Grayson Cole. The theme of Inside Out seems to be an inside look at interracial dating in the South . . . not a lighthearted topic by any means. Biracialism, multiculturalism and interracial dating may seem to be in vogue but for people in the center there are often stigmas still attached. 


Tracey McAlpine is a graduate student in Alabama and a daughter of privilege. She is fortunate enough to be residing in her own home, inherited from a grandmother, and has a trust account. Tracey is also afraid to shake things up. She does what is expected and seeks to remain in the background. Garrett Atkins is the fair-haired boy (young man) in his family. He excelled at sports, is well liked and respected by his friends and peers, and is now in law school at the top of his class. Garrett is attracted to Tracey and their relationship takes off with an extremely rocky start. Garrett has his reasons for keeping his “friendship” with Tracey secret just as Tracey has her own. But when their relationship veers from “friendship” to “relationship,” Garrett is ready to bring it out into the open. Tracey is not. Garrett is ready to push when Tracey informs him that she’s pregnant. What follows is somewhat akin to a mini-Shakespearean drama. Garrett’s mother refuses to accept that she is going to have a biracial grandchild and ignores the situation, after having a meltdown. Tracey’s parents are also extremely concerned when they learn that the father is white. 


Garrett and Tracey may be living in the New South but there are still problems to be faced as a biracial couple. I found Inside Out to realistically portray the inner turmoil faced by Garrett and Tracey and their decisions. Neither are villains nor heroes in this saga, but they both bring drama and issues into their relationship that require work for a successful relationship to be had. The reality is that no relationship lives in a vacuum. Our families and friends impact our decisions. The realism of the situations and the depth of the characters made for a truly enjoyable and memorable read. I’m really glad that I noticed the ad for this book and even happier that I bought it.

Book 153: THE ORPHAN SISTER Review

I think that there are periods in our lives when we all may feel out of step with our siblings and/or family. We simply feel as if we don’t fit in for some reason. This appears to be the underlying theme of The Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross. 


Clementine Lord feels out-of-step with her sisters, even though she is a triplet. It doesn’t help that they are identical twins and she is simply the “sister.” Or at least that how it feels to her at times. Clem’s sisters are high achievers and have beautiful names, Odette and Olivia. Their mother’s name is Octavia so of course Clem feel’s left out with something as simple as just her name. The twins were accepted to Harvard and went to medical school, ultimately specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics. They got married at the same time and even had their children within days of one another. Clem fell in love first but her boyfriend died during college. As a result of his death, it took Clem three years to complete her final year of college. She’s unsure of what she wants to do with her life but thinks she wants to become a vet…which is as close to medicine as she’ll get. 


Clem loves her sisters, as well as her mother and father but she just feels that there’s something that puts her out of sync with the rest. All three sisters desperately want the approval of their father, and seem to subconsciously compete for that approval. Just when Clem is starting to feel comfortable with her life and where its heading her father disappears. Then it is revealed that he had another wife. The drama quotient is upped tremendously by this news. Clem is at first worried about her father’s absence and then just pissed that he would leave and remain incommunicado. 


Ms. Gross has provided characters that are recognizable and likable because of their faults and blemishes. The Orphan Sister is a delightful story about learning to like your family not just love them and about accepting our individual differences. 


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 147: THE SWEETNESS OF TEARS Review

It’s rare to read a book that truly touches me, especially when the subject matter is far removed from the reality that is my life, but The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji did just that, touched me. This isn’t a sad story. It isn’t filled with tragedy and sorrow nor is it filled with happiness and joy. It is, quite simply, filled with the ups and downs, the mistakes and corrections, as well as the joys that make up life.


The life and experiences of Jo March are at the core of this story. She realizes as a teenager that something is wrong because she and her brother have brown eyes but both of her parents have blue eyes. After confronting her mother she learns that her mother became pregnant as a teenager by another teenager, a Pakistani named Sadiq. 


Sadiq was a privileged and spoiled young man in Pakistan. He was separated from his mother as a young child, and had a brief reunion with his mother in the United States as a teenager. The story also introduces his mother’s story, Deena. Deena is raised as a Shia Muslimah in Pakistani shortly after the Partition (or separation of Pakistan from India). She is an idealistic young woman that is blessed with a common sense family. After her father’s death she is engaged and then marries the son of her father’s best friend. Regrettably her husband is bipolar and off his medicines and it isn’t until after the marriage when she learns of his “problem.” Her husband commits suicide shortly after the birth of Sadiq and his family blames Deena. After Sadiq is taken by his father’s family, Deena remarries and moves to the United States where she finds happiness with her new family.


The lives of the characters intersect, gently influence, and overlap throughout the story. Deena befriends the teenage Angela on her visit to Los Angeles. Angela befriends Sadiq and they comfort one another resulting in the birth of Jo and her twin brother, Chris. Jo’s exposure to different cultures through her maternal grandmother and mission work sparks an interest in language. Jo’s meeting with Sadiq leads to her studying Arabic and Urdu in college, which leads to her work as a translator shortly after 9/11. Jo looks up Deena, her paternal grandmother, after she quits translating as a part of the war effort and visits Pakistan as a true civilian. Chris enlisted in the Marine Corps after 9/11, is sent to Iraq only to come home a broken man and attempts to kill himself. 


As I read this tale of a fictional family, I was often moved to tears. The emotions felt by the characters seemed to come alive and jump off the page. Remember, I said this wasn’t a tale of sadness or sorrow although there is sadness and sorrow in the tale. It isn’t a tale of tragedy although there are tragedies throughout, but there is also happiness and joy. Religion is often in the background of this story, but it isn’t a tale of Islam vs. Christianity, Shia vs. Sunni, or Us vs. Them, but more about humanity and our similarities as opposed to our differences. This, for me, was a story about self-discovery, acceptance and, ultimately, family. The following lines seem to sum up all that is felt and depicted in this wonderful tale: 

“A wise woman that I know once said that the tears we cry for others are tears of sweetness – to be appreciated as a sign of God’s love, and sorry, for all of the injustice that we lowly creatures, human beings who have not yet learned to be human, all of us, inflict on one another. It is a good thing, when we cry these sweet tears, she said. It is a good thing.”



So if you read this story, and you should, don’t worry if you shed a few tears . . . tears can be a good thing.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”