Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin
Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction last week, this poignant and powerful debut offers a lyrical and contemporary approach to the refugee tale. Following three siblings who flee Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, arriving first in Hong Kong and then in Thatcher’s Great Britain, the novel details the refugee experience, the weight of intergenerational trauma and the psychological toll of assimilation. There is loss and tragedy and devastation within its pages, but alongside these are scenes of tenderness, resilience and camaraderie. Combining historical research, lyrical narrative threads, voices from lost family, and notes by an unnamed narrator, Wandering Souls is both a searing reckoning with history and an intimate portrait of a family and their relentless pursuit for a hopeful future.
The tagline for Zoya Patel’s smart 2018 memoir No Country Woman was, ‘Race. Religion. Feminism.’ and you do feel these words could equally be stamped on the cover of Once a Stranger, her debut novel. It’s the story of three Indian-Muslim women in the Ishmael family; mother Khadija and her daughters, Ayat and Laila. Ayat is estranged from her family but returns to Canberra after an escalation in her mother’s motor neurone disease.
Uncomfortably reunited, the women grapple with their feelings towards each other, as well as their relationship to Australia. They migrated to a regional town when the girls were very young and the novel delicately explores how the past has shaped their present, and why they now seem to have vastly different opinions and approaches to culture, religion and race.
Though it is fiction, Zoya Patel admits to sharing some of the problems facing her character Ayat, saying that she herself has typed into Yahoo, ‘telling parents, white boyfriend, Indian parents disappointed.’ It’s this personal touch that has produced an intimate and enjoyable story of belonging.
Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey
Schitt’s Creek screenwriter pens debut about the uncertainties of modern love, friendship and happiness...need we say more? We probably don't need to, but we will, and we'll keep it brief.
Maggie, the 29-year-old sardonic heroine of Monica Heisey's novel, is trying to work out why her marriage only lasted 608 days. "I feel like when you get a divorce everyone’s wondering how you ruined it all, what made you so unbearable to be with. If your husband dies, at least people feel bad for you." The reader gets a front row seat to Maggie's first year year of life as Surprisingly Young Divorcée™. From cheeseburgers in the early hours of the morning, to the emotionally devastating things her therapist says to her, to some truly awkward sex scenes, there is a certain amount of unravelling that needs to happen before Maggie can begin to answer some of her big questions on life and love.
A combo of Sex and the City meets Sorrow and Bliss meets Bridget Jones’s Diary, Really Good Actually will be a really good time for millennials who like to laugh through their pain.