Archives for posts with tag: The Association of Small Bombs

Sometimes, awards lists can be predictable in the same way that the New York Times Book Review can be predictable. I mean, Meryl Streep needs another nomination as much as Stephen King needs a book review. At this point, you’re either a Stephen King fan or you’re not.

One of the many wonderful things about the Anisfield-Wolf book awards is that they generally introduce me to authors and titles I haven’t encountered before. Such was the case with Karan Mahahjan’s The Association of Small Bombs (tremendous book!) and such was the case, once again, with The Fortunes. First of all, I’ve never heard of Peter Ho Davies or any of hi

I was worried at first because the Table of Contents made it seem like this was really going to be 4 short stories. In a literal sense, if you think the book is about its characters, it is. And taken individually, they are all vivid and excellent. Taken together, though, complete with unifying themes, language, images, this is a novel about, to borrow from Celeste Ng’s blurb, “the Chinese American experience.”

It earns two of my highest compliments. The first is that I’ve not read anything like it before. The second is that I’d love to teach it. We could go in so many different directions with this novel, whether it’s historical, whether it’s Hollywood, whether it’s immigration, whether it’s living a hyphenated life, how form follows function, the evolution of symbols, who can tell what kind of jokes and on and on.

It’s honest, it’s funny, it’s anything but safe, it’s heartbreaking, it’s a world – which is everything a novel should be – especially an award winning one.

 

Peter Ho Davies

Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

This Anisfield-Wolf award winner is absolutely stunning. From its riveting opening pages until the truth of its conclusion, Mahajan takes us through a stunning story of small bombs, both the ones used by terrorists and the ones encountered in everyday life. I think what’s new here is that Mahajan, as the perfectly designed cover demonstrates, connects the bombs in ways we rarely get access to, let alone appreciate. What’s also new and both bold and necessary is that Mahajan takes us inside the lives of these terrorists. He accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of making us, if not like them, then at least understand them, both on a personal and political level. It is in these sections that he asks the most difficult and urgent questions, and I hope Anisfield-Wolf plans to host some conversations about this book even before the author arrives. (You must know that sensation of having finished a book and looking around immediately thinking, “Who else has finished it? I must talk to someone about this book. Now!) And please don’t think that Mahajan lets anyone in this story elude his hard questions. There are no angels in India, either.

In my enthusiasm for the content of the book, I don’t want to neglect Mahajan’s writing. He has passages, some as short as a phrase and others as long as several pages, that are just breathtaking in their precision and use of language. Unless I am teaching a novel, I rarely read with a pencil in hand. This time I did and my annotations and exclamation points fill this book.

The only fault with this book is mine. I know so little about India. It is not necessary to have much background knowledge to immerse yourself in this book, but I would love a suggestion of something to read to give me that background knowledge so I can appreciate it on another level when I return to it.

the cover