Brass by Xhenet Aliu Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Brass

A fierce debut novel about mothers and daughters, haves and have-nots, and the stark realities behind the American Dream
 
A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in


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    Emily May

    Jan 10, 2018

    rated it
    liked it

    Shelves:
    modern-lit,
    2018,
    mma-2018

    “It’s nobody’s fault, Luljeta. It’s not a fault. It’s just mistakes. Or, I don’t know, not mistakes, just decisions that led to other decisions, and on and on, and in the end the first decision seemed too far buried to get back to and change.”

    Brass is a quiet family drama highly-praised by one of my favourite authors of quiet family dramas – Celeste Ng.

    It seemed like an obvious choice for me, especially following the kind of books I’ve been enjoying in the past few years. I’ve been loving mul

    “It’s nobody’s fault, Luljeta. It’s not a fault. It’s just mistakes. Or, I don’t know, not mistakes, just decisions that led to other decisions, and on and on, and in the end the first decision seemed too far buried to get back to and change.”

    Brass is a quiet family drama highly-praised by one of my favourite authors of quiet family dramas – Celeste Ng.

    It seemed like an obvious choice for me, especially following the kind of books I’ve been enjoying in the past few years. I’ve been loving multi-generational family tales and the exploration of immigrant experiences, so this book about second and third generation Lithuanian and Albanian immigrants in America, that promises a particular focus on the relationships between mothers and daughters, should have been a new favourite.

    And it was good. There was a lot of beautiful writing and quiet reflections on human nature. Though, overall, I kept hoping for something more. I wasn’t as engrossed in the tale of Elsie’s pregnancy and Luljeta’s search for her father as I felt I should have been. The needs, desires, and stakes all seemed too unimportant. Ng calls this novel “fierce”, as her own contemporaries are, but I would disagree with that. Brass is a gentle breeze of a novel.

    The story follows pregnant teenager Elsie during the nineties as she falls for the Albanian Bashkim, a man full of empty promises and sweet words: “I swear to Allah, you are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen”. Then we switch quickly to more recent times, following Elsie’s daughter Luljeta as she questions who she is and begins to rediscover her father’s family.

    I would have liked to have seen more from the relationship between Elsie and Luljeta. I was drawn in by the promise of a look at the relationships between mothers and daughters, but I felt like Elsie’s and Luljeta’s stories were separate for most of the novel. Obviously Luljeta is absent for almost all of Elsie’s chapters, but even when we switch to Luljeta’s perspective, the focus instead seemed to be on her search for Bashkim and his family. Only at the very conclusion of her perspective does the story come back to the importance of a mother’s love.

    Aliu clearly draws on her own experiences as a daughter of Lithuanian and Albanian immigrants, whilst also making this the “quintessentially American story” promised by the description. It is a story of dreams and desires, dead-end towns and all-night diners. Elsie becomes stuck, a single mother abandoned by Bashkim in small town Connecticut, and this instills both scorn and fear in Luljeta. Scorn for her mother’s position and failures; fear that she is destined for the same.

    Though not quite as effective as I’d hoped it would be, I’m definitely glad I discovered this author. I’ll be on the lookout for Aliu’s future books.

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    Angela M

    Dec 04, 2017

    rated it
    really liked it

    This is a fantastic debut novel, captivating and well written, about mothers and daughters, broken by the abandonment of fathers , a husband , a lover, about secrets kept and seeking identity. There are other layers of the story – the search of an immigrant for a escape from communism to a better life, the struggle of women who are single parents and the things that life deals that get in the way.

    There are two alternating narratives. Elsie, an eighteen year old girl in a dead end job at a diner

    There are two alternating narratives. Elsie, an eighteen year old girl in a dead end job at a diner in Waterbury, Connecticut, hoping to just get out of this place until she meets Bashkim , an immigrant from Albania, and everything changes. The second narrative brings the story into the future and is that of her 17 year old daughter Luljeta. The author has chosen an interesting way to tell Luljeta’s part of the story by telling it in the second person , speaking about herself as some one other than herself. At first I thought that maybe it might drive me crazy, but on the contrary , it worked . It worked so well reflecting in an intimate almost self analytical way about her relationship with her mother, her plans for the future and her identity as she wonders who her father is and where he might be.

    There is sadness amidst the dysfunction in these relationships but hopefulness in possibilities of forgiveness. I can’t say that I loved all of these characters all of the time; they each have their flaws. I can say that I was drawn into their lives , cared about the outcome and rooted for them every step of the way.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley.
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    Larry H

    Feb 01, 2018

    rated it
    really liked it

    I’m between 3.5 and 4, so I’ll round up.

    “…often the love your mother gives feels like it’s being rejected by your body, as if you’re the B-positive recipient of an A-negative blood donation.”

    The often-complicated relationship between mothers and daughters has been fodder for literature, movies, and music for many, many years. What is it about this type of relationship that can bring such fierce love, friendship, and loyalty, as well as resentment, anger, and frustration, often simultaneously?

    O

    “…often the love your mother gives feels like it’s being rejected by your body, as if you’re the B-positive recipient of an A-negative blood donation.”

    The often-complicated relationship between mothers and daughters has been fodder for literature, movies, and music for many, many years. What is it about this type of relationship that can bring such fierce love, friendship, and loyalty, as well as resentment, anger, and frustration, often simultaneously?

    Obviously, those questions are somewhat lost on me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading about the dynamics of these relationships! Xhenet Aliu’s first novel,
    Brass
    , examines the sometimes unfulfilling, tenuous bonds between a woman, her mother, and her daughter, and the result is moving and tremendously compelling.

    Elsie is an unmotivated high school graduate unsure if she’ll ever amount to anything much. Waitressing at the Betsy Ross Diner in her hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, her mother is a frustrated alcoholic who has pretty much left Elsie and her younger sister to raise themselves, with occasional meddling. Constantly living hand-to-mouth, it’s not hard to dream of something better, but she doesn’t have many expectations in that regard.

    When she meets Bashkim, a line cook who escaped the political unrest in his native Albania to work at his relatives’ diner, she is drawn to his weary worldliness, and finds his anger, as well as his simultaneous bravado and despair, immensely magnetic. Her grandparents immigrated from Lithuania, so she thinks she understands Bashkim’s situation and that of his coworkers. She knows he has a wife back in Albania, but she doesn’t care, and it’s not long before she has fallen in love with him.

    “I didn’t want to think about how it was unfair that some people had it so much worse when I’d already committed to fixating on people who had it so much better.”

    Elsie finds herself pregnant, and although Bashkim professes happiness for their situation, and promises to take care of her and the baby, she isn’t completely sure that’s what she wants. As he struggles with the troubles back home and what to do with his wife, Elsie realizes what she wants more than anything is a ticket out of Waterbury, away from the life she has had to date, and wonders whether Bashkim will be the one to help her achieve that.

    Seventeen years later, Elsie’s daughter Luljeta dreams of escaping her Connecticut hometown, just as her mother once did (although she doesn’t know that). But when her plans to attend NYU don’t materialize, she can’t fathom the thought of spending her adult life with her mother, with not enough money or opportunities to enjoy life. For the first time, she starts to wonder what her mother has been hiding all these years where her father is concerned, and she’s determined to uncover the truth.

    When she finds out the truth is far from what she’s been told through the years, she decides to find him, and see if perhaps that relationship might bring her more joy and promise than the one she has with Elsie. She doesn’t know what to expect, and in fact, doesn’t even know how to get there, but she knows she must do it on her own.

    “She could have explained that he was a frightened man, and a frightened man, like a frightened dog, was a potentially dangerous thing. She could have said those things instead of repeating, if the topic ever came up, that your father was simply an asshole, the same term she applies to people who don’t matter at all, like guys who cut her off in traffic and Bill O’Reilly. But if she lied about where he was, who’s to say she wasn’t lying about what he was? What if he wasn’t just some asshole, and you weren’t better off without him?”

    Switching narration between Elsie and Luljeta, between past and present,
    Brass
    is a moving account of the sacrifices made for love and parenthood, and how often we ignore the signs that what we’re running toward may be no more appealing than what we’re running from. Instead of giving one side of the story, Aliu gives us both sides, which really deepens the poignancy of the narrative.

    While at times the book moved a little slower than I would have liked, I thought Aliu was a terrific storyteller, and I was completely drawn into Elsie and Luljeta’s stories. These are women accustomed to not having control of their lives, so there were many times when I wanted to shake them into action, into saying what needed to be said.

    No one relationship is perfect, and it requires an equal amount of give and take to make it work. I’d imagine where mothers and daughters are concerned, finding that balance may be difficult for a while, if not forever.
    Brass
    is a fascinating look at two women whose lives need that balance, and who realize they need others to help them, too.

    See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
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