You Bring the Distant Near is a heart-warming family saga, following the women of one family as they navigate the uncertain waters of identity, assimilation, and family. It has a wonderful cast of diverse women, who are brave and tender. By taking the time, Perkins shows us the power of open-mindedness, love, and the ability to change our minds.
The Das family has just immigrated to New York City from India. The two daughters, Tara and Sonia are as different as night and day, one a master of disguise and another passionate writer. Together they become accustomed to American culture and all the positives and negatives. Anna, the daughter of a Bollywood actress, is shy and fiercely attached to her culture, while her cousin, Chantal is a lively dancer and student who struggles to find love. And connecting these generations is the Das matriarch, Ranee. Their journeys to and from America expose their challenges with their multi-racial identities and their new found home.
So I was absolutely blown away by the amount of nuanced ethnic representation here. While the majority of the family is Bengali, there’s much more – half African American, and varying different experiences of religion, culture, and opinions. Each of the characters, especially the women, were intricate. They were multi-dimensional and lively, full of color, life, and insecurity. Interracial relationships and multi-racial identities were a huge part of the book, but so were class divides. The whole book is full of these complexities that make it come alive. There were no easy decisions and no simple characters.
Not only that, but ethnicity, stereotypes, and prejudice play a huge role in the book. Our main characters are encountering challenges fitting into society and within their families. One of the best ways that this book engaged this topic was by looking inwards at some of the family members who have to get over their prejudice and accept them. Because of this, the entire book just feels like this huge growing process where the family grows, the characters transform, and the entire book just feels like one big piece of a growing organism.
And there were, of course, tons of little things I loved, like the mentions of other books, or the little details in the settings. One of the things I absolutely adored was Sonia’s love of writing and books. This basically sold me the novel from the beginning as I fell in love with her and was able to see her family change. There were also amazing quotes throughout the book that make reading not only educating, but also entertaining.
You Bring the Distant Near is like a steam engine. It picks up steam and excitement until it carries you away on a book full of complex and amazing characters who are navigating pretty serious issues of identity and cultural clashes. It is a testament to fitting in, standing out, strong women, and the flexible potential of owning our identity.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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