You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
“Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not.
Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own.
Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother
Of the stranger. I am uneasy of heart when I have to leave
My accustomed shelter; I forgot that there abides the old
In the new, and that there also thou abidest.”
-Rabindranath Tagore, from “Poems”
I just loved this book; I only wish I would have read it before hearing Mitali Perkins discuss it at an author event I attended last month! This YA tale of three generations of women from the same family does something I’ve only seen done well in books written for adults - cover a time span of nearly 50 years in 300 pages. Impressive.
The story begins in the 70s as Ranee and Ranjeev move from England to New York (after moving to England from India) and try to find the balance of raising their teenage daughters, Sonia and Tara, to be American girls who value their Indian culture. When a tragic accident takes their Baba away from them too soon, the girls seem to find their peace in anything their mother disapproves of. Mother-Daughters strife ensues.
The middle of the book covers Sonia and Tara’s voyages into young adulthood and the beginning of the directions their lives will take. These stories include how Sonia falls in love with her husband (ah, Paris) and how Tara falls in love with her husband (NY by way of India). I loved this part of the book.
The last third of the book focuses on Sonia’s daughter, Chantal, and Tara’s daughter, Anna, and their relationship with their grandmother, Ranee (and in Chantal’s case, her relationship with both of her grandmothers - lol). Ranee’s transformation is a joy to read.
You Bring the Distant Near is a lovely, feel-good book that explores honoring our family culture while integrating new customs and traditions as our families grow and change. I especially loved Anna’s observation when she is trying to make her peace with being an Indian-American when she says, “Maybe ‘being American’ means you still have room in your heart for other things. Old things. Good things.” The audio was just as lovely as Mitali Perkins’ writing and I highly recommend it. The novel itself was longlisted for the National Book Award. Well deserved.
The back cover is just as gorgeous as the front . . .