Book Review: Lakewood by Megan Giddings

I loved “Lakewood” by Megan Giddings. At the beginning it gave me a “We Cast A Shadow” vibe (by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, another book I loved!) but though they both deal with racism and the burden of white-centered beauty standards (among other themes), they are very different books.

Lakewood takes us to a tiny town in Michigan, of the same name, where secret and unethical government sponsored clinical trials are undertaken on human subjects, mostly BIPOCs. Lena, a college student just lost her grandma to cancer and is forced to work to pay her mom’s medical bills as well as to continue to afford college. So, human trials that offer amazing insurance and great benefits, how bad can they be? They end up being a nightmare. Though not a horror story by itself, this story is pretty terrifying and cringing, and yet so addictive. Like a horror movie, you want to turn it off and turn a blind eye, but you also must know if Lena will make it out alive. It is so good! Worst part is that it is probably not too far away from the truth. I totally recommend it. I wouldn’t mind picking it up again right now.

Book Review: Memorial or A Study on Relationships

I am a firm believer in second chances. Sometimes a book is not for you because of the place you are in as a reader or your own bias. But all authors deserve to be read again, and their stories must be told.

Though not a fan of Bryan Washington’s “Lot”, in that spirit I picked up his newest novel “Memorial”, coming out on October 6th, 2020 by Riverhead Books. I was taken by the maturity as a storyteller that is evident from “Lot” to “Memorial”, his humor and how accurately he portrays domesticity in relationships; the struggles to make a relationship work and how love is not always so clear-cut. This is a perfect novel to be dissected, analysed and discussed by book clubs; there is so much food for thought, so many issues to be discussed from race, multiculturalism, identity, love, marriage, commitment. Mike and Benson try to figure out their relationship, their bond to each other, as they discover who they are and who they want to be; and their different ethnic and economical backgrounds, family histories, play a role in how the relate to one another and the outside world. The fact that the story is told intermittently from each of their point of view, shows the reader how in relationships there are gaps in communication, assumptions on how the other person feels or what he/she/they think, and so many things left unsaid that contribute to creating fractions. It is really a fascinating story about love and relationships and finding a way to make it all work. I cannot recommend it enough.

Frying Plantain or Growing Up Jamaican in Canada

I have a confession to make. I rarely pick up Caribbean authors. I don’t know of many besides VS Naipaul, who is controversial at best. But it all starts by acknowledging our shortcomings, and I jumped on the latest bookstagram hype and bought a copy of Frying Plantain by Zalike Reid-Benta.

This is the story of a young girl, daughter of Jamaican immigrants, growing up in Toronto. Besides the usual teenager woes, she has to struggle with being bicultural and that uncomfortable feeling of not fitting in with your community at home or in the Motherland. The book develops in a series of interconnected short stories, that to me, resembled the vignettes of quotidianity, peeks into someone else’s life reality-show style. And though this book is definitely about growing up Jamaican in Canada, the everyday life of Kara seems so universal that it is relatable to people from all backgrounds and ethnicities. The most noteworthy part of the story is the tense relationship between Kara, her mom and her strong-willed grandma. I found grandma and grandpa to be the strongest characters in the book.

However, if you as a reader are plot-oriented or love to feel a personal connection with the characters, you might find this book lacking. It is a really interesting story, but very ordinary without thrilling pot-twist and with a variety of characters that rarely show themselves past a chapter or two. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining book that I would recommend.