Book Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao – An Evocative and Vulnerable Story about Grief, Connection, and Moving On

Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

I was provided an uncorrected bound manuscript from the author. My honest opinions in this book review reflect this version and may be different to the final version of the book.

It’s been two months since I finished You’ve Reached Sam, and it’s a book that has stayed with me since. I think about this book almost every other day. You’ve Reached Sam is a story that confronts grief in its most intense and most painful. And yet, though I was a sobbing, snotty mess by the end of the book, its tender and genuine portrayal of love in its most pure form was also unexpectedly healing.

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Book Review: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim – A Love Letter To Food, Family and Culture but Unfortunately Let Down By Its Tedious Writing

book review natalie tan book luck fortune the quiet pond

Summary:

At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around–she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.

CW’s Review:

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune seemed like it had the recipe of an instant favourite: A story about a Chinese-American woman who returns home to face her demons, explores and celebrates the importance and power of food, and has themes of family, specifically generations of strong and fierce Chinese woman. To my immense disappointment, Natalie Tan has its heart in the right place but was, unfortunately and ultimately, an incredibly frustrating book to read.

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Book Review: Exit West by Mohsim Hamid – A Profound Story about the Refugee Experience, Displacement, and Fabulistic Doors

Text: EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid. Image: Yellow, stained, and fraying wallpaper on a wall, with a door into a European street with blue skies.
Blurb:

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

My review:

I had heard so much about Exit West; heard about how brilliant it was, how thoughtful, and how deep, and I have to say — I absolutely agree with all its praises. It follows Nadia and Saeed, two characters who live in an unnamed Middle-Eastern country (though the author has alluded that the city is based on his home in Pakistan), and how they escape the violence and instability of their country by escaping through a mysterious door that has appeared across the world. Transported to a new place, Nadia and Saeed grapple with losing their home and trying to make a new one. And thus, Hamid has elegantly written a profound and moving story about emigration, the refugee experience, and the relationships we have with others.

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