The author has really taken her time to craft the characters in this story. It centers on two generations of a family. The parents, immigrants to New York from Bangladesh, have survived war and the tearing apart of families and friendships, and at some level cannot sympathize with the small troubles of their children. The daughters, Ella and Charu, are searching for their identities in every way, including sexual, familial, and religious, as they are on break from college.
Toward the end of the summer that occupies the first part of the book, things fall apart rather rapidly. The daughters' best friend, Maya, poisons herself, and the father has an affair. The family is a victim of small-time homegrown terror. The father's best friend tells him that he has lost his way, and the next thing we know, we're in Bangladesh with the family.
This is an intriguing part of the modern immigrant story -- the ability to go back and visit the old home as Americans. The description of Bangladesh and the story of its history drew me in. The characters explored their stories, old and new, shared and individual.
The book has room for the characters to grow and change, to experience what Charu calls midirected love and then to back away from it. The young women do mature quite a bit, although they still bear the quick tempers of youth. Ella, in particular, finds a new identity that she had been hiding from. The ending is hopeful without being a happily-ever-after or an unmitigated tragedy. The author has clearly taken a great deal of care with crafting this narrative, and I appreciate that as a reader.
This is a beautiful story, and I heartily recommend it. It's not for the overly conservative (there is sex, there is weed), but then, very few novels are.
I got a copy of this from First to Read.