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Vintage

Vintage
Susan Gloss

For Violet, running her shop Hourglass Vintage is more than a job – it is the fulfillment of dreams she had as a small-town girl and abused wife. So when lease issues threaten her business, she is frantic to find a solution.
April bought her wedding dress at Hourglass Vintage, but returned it when her engagement to an upper-class boy fell apart. Now she is left pregnant and heartbroken.
Elizabeth, a mentor to both women and a patron of the arts, has the idea that the women should work together. But can they each get past their own struggles to become friends.
Amithi comes to Hourglass Vintage to sell some of her clothes from India after her long marriage falls apart. She is hoping for some kind of fulfilling career but has no idea where to start. Violet’s business gives her inspiration.
Each of the women in Vintage has her own story to tell. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was how the women were all different ages and at different stages of love and success.
Vintage: A Novel

You might like: A Vintage Affair, Isabel Wolff. The Perfume Collector, Kathleen Tessaro. The Shoemaker’s Wife, Adriana Trigiani.

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The Baby Chase

The Baby Chase: how surrogacy is transforming the American family
Leslie Morgan Steiner

10-12% of people (or 1 in 8) struggle with infertility. Fortunately, the last 50 years have seen unbelievable advances in the field of assistive reproductive technology (ART.) Unfortunately for some people, all the technology in the world still doesn’t result in being able to conceive or carry a baby to term. They are left with 2 options: adoption or surrogacy.
The Baby Chase details the journey to surrogacy for one couple, Gerry and Rhonda Wile. Steiner weaves together their story with medical and technological facts that are detailed but accessible. For many reasons, a growing number of surrogate mothers are in India, and their history finds its place in the narrative too.

The Baby Chase is part human-interest story and part medical study. All the parts are well drawn and accessible with attention to detail.
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The Lowland

The Lowland
Jhumpa Lahiri

Summarizing the plot of any Lahiri book takes only a few words. But the plots are deceptively simple-  her characters and storytelling are exceptional! She has a way of describing everyday moments- attending a class, getting the mail, cooking rice- so they appear vividly in the reader’s mind and linger there long after the last page is turned.

Lowland is the story of two brothers from India. Subhash travels to America for college and, while he returns home for visits, never  moves back. Udayan, however, gets involved in controversial politics in his homeland. These choices made early in their lives determine the brothers’ fates.
There are other parts to the plot- marriage, children- but in the end this is a story about the two brothers: the things that they shared, and the things that drove them apart.
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You might like: Bitter Sweets, Farooki. Kite Runner, Hosseni

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The Mountain of Light

The Mountain of Light
Indu Sundaresan

The Kohinoor diamond today is part of the British crown jewels. But hundreds of years ago, it belonged to rulers of India, Persia and Afghanistan. It was taken as kingdoms were conquered, and given in ransom and tribute. The name “Koh-i-noor” means “mountain of light” and refers to the diamond’s unusual brilliance.

Sundaresan has written a beautiful account of almost 100 years in the life of the Kohinoor diamond, during the British conquest of India. The story traces real events and features some historical characters, although many of the details are fictional.
Sundaresan opts to move the story along through a sort of chain of narrators, each one linking to the next. I found each narration break a bit confusing, as it always took me a little while to figure out the connection to the previous segment. However, this unique style brought a wide range of perspectives to the story (male and female; British and Indian; royal, military and civilian.)
The segment I enjoyed the most was also the saddest one: at the end when the last heir of the Punjab empire, Dalip Singh, has followed the Kohinoor to England.  His life there is in sharp contrast to the stories of his predecessors in India just a few decades before.

Sundaresan excels at descriptions: lush gardens, vivid colors and sparkling mirrors form the backdrop for the story of the Kohinoor diamond. The contrast between Indian and British cultures is especially sharp.  This is a part of history I don’t know much about, but Mountain of Light brought the stories of the past alive.
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You might like: The Namesake, Lahiri. The Blood of Flowers, Amirrezvani. The World We Found, Umrigar.