Ruth Ozeki’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted title has been a favorite among BookerMarks members this year. With such a richly layered and intricate plot, it’s difficult not to get sucked into this novel of hope, friendship, and family in the modern world. Split between two narrators, A Tale for the Time Being introduces readers to Nao, a teenage girl living in Tokyo, and Ruth, a writer living on the Pacific coast of Canada. Even though the two have never met, their lives are inextricably connected when Ruth finds Nao’s diary on the ocean shore, carefully wrapped and sealed within a freezer bag. As Ruth reads Nao’s story, she develops a deep kinship and sense of concern for this Japanese girl.
NoVoilet Bulawayo’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel starts off with a lot of promise compared to some of this year’s other contenders. It is immediately readable with a storyline that promises poignancy and individuality, but like so many other 2013 MBP nominees, We Need New Names ultimately disappoints.
Our narrator, Darling, is ten years old and living in her home country of Zimbabwe when the story opens. While she and her friends spend their days stealing guavas and wandering the streets, they all long for something more. Even amidst poverty, hunger, and disease, Darling and her friends are deeply aware of what they’re missing out on. When they think of America and Western life, they think of Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, and Lamborghinis. But as Darling soon finds out, American life isn’t all glitz and glamour.
Centuries ago in an unspecified rural location, a small village of farmers spot a mysterious cloud of smoke coming from the outskirts of their land. This occurrence might not seem extraordinary, and certainly not any cause for alarm, but to the villagers it signifies a change in the air. It means that outsiders are nearby, perhaps watching them. Are the owners of this smoke cloud friend or foe? No one can be sure at first, but when the village master’s dovecote is destroyed by a fire, the fearful community turns to the mysterious smoke cloud for answers. As they soon learn, the fire belongs to a small family – The Beldams – that has set up camp near the village, and though they may look harmless enough, someone must pay for the crime that has been committed.
Over the course of the next eight days, leading up the Man Booker shortlist announcement on September 10th, each one of our eight bloggers will champion a different nominated title and explain Why it Will Win the coveted prize.
So as you probably already guessed from my review of The Testament of Mary, I have very mixed feelings about the book. While I was certainly impressed with Tóibín’s attempt to present the mother of Christ in a more versatile and realistic light, I was ultimately disappointed by the one-dimensional Mary that emerges. But even so, here are a few reasons why The Testament of Mary night take home the Man Booker Prize this year:
Longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, Almost English presents the tension and identity crises that occur within a blended, multicultural family. While 16 year-old Marina might identify as English on paper, her family life and heritage is much more complicated. Marina’s mother, Laura, married a Hungarian man named Peter, but his binge drinking and general lack of enthusiasm for family life left Marina fatherless for the majority of her upbringing. And the life of a single mother hasn’t been easy for Laura, either, especially considering that they are still very closely tied to Peter’s family. Marina and Laura have lived with Peter’s mother and her two sisters in a tiny London apartment since Peter’s abandonment, which has propelled them into a sort of cultural limbo.
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
A Novel by Eve Harris
2013 / 350 Pages
Chani Kaufman is only 19 years old, but she already has major responsibilities. She was raised in a very conservative Jewish family in London, and between her religious duties and her job as an art teacher’s assistant, poor Chani barely has time to prepare for her wedding. Chani and Baruch went on just four dates before he proposed, which is apparently typical of Jewish dating customs, and now Chani oscillates between feeling lucky and blessed and completely terrified. Mrs. Kaufman already has 7 other children to care for, so she barely has time to answer her young daughter’s questions about life and marriage. Chani attempts to gain answers from The Rebbetzin (The Rabbi’s wife), but she has just suffered a terrible miscarriage at the age of 44 and is therefore grief-stricken and preoccupied. Their religious customs prohibit Chani from speaking too openly about intimate things like sex, marriage, childbirth, and birth control, so she must do what the women before her have done – become a wife and figure it all out little by little.