You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (review)
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Reviewed by
Perkins, Mitali You Bring the Distant Near. Farrar, 2017 [320p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30490-4 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30491-1 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10

In this well-constructed domestic novel, Perkins offers a fictional long view of an immigration experience, as Hindu Bengali migrants Ranee and Rajeev Das bring their daughters, Tara and Sonia, to America in 1973 after several years of [End Page 31] temporary settlement in Africa and Europe. They are not politically or religiously persecuted, they are not destitute, they are well educated and speak impeccable, if accented, English—and yet their first years are a struggle with adjustment. The girls are perfectly comfortable in their apartment in Flushing, but Ranee considers it a bad neighborhood and is concerned that most of her daughters’ friends are black. Better schools and a house in what she sees as a more bucolic suburb bring some satisfaction, but Ranee and Rajeev bicker over money and success while the girls’ Americanization strains the family. Sonia, the rabble-rouser, falls in love and elopes with a black classmate, Lou; Tara meets Amit, a prosperous young man chosen by her parents, and first resists the arranged courtship but ultimately falls deeply in love with him. The sisters each have a daughter of their own—Sonia’s Chantal and Tara’s Anna—and the concluding third of the novel sees them to the brink of young adulthood, uniting the disparate branches of their extended families and coming to terms with their interracial and -cultural identities. The fully fleshed characters and complex family dynamics provide a vibrant background for exploration of multigenerational adaptation to a diverse America and of the familial and romantic love that nourishes their new roots.

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