I’m having a hard time reviewing this one, mostly because I had a hard time deciding what I thought about it. But I’m on the verge of getting hopelessly behind in reviews again, so it’s time to buckle down and figure it out.
I was thinking about the book this morning and I think I’ve finally formed some solid opinions, so here we go.
This is a book about change in all its forms: death (and grief), destruction, creation, evolution, the way a person changes when they let other people into their lives, progress, sickness, learning, growing up, breaking up, getting old. You get the idea. And I think the main thing that was unsettling me about this book is that I didn’t want things to change for these characters, in fact at points during this reading experience, I actively resented it. This is what we call irony! This book dragged me kicking and screaming through its pages. I wanted Chava and Ahmad to keep their happily ever after ending, and I wanted that first book to remain its own perfectly contained thing, the characters frozen in time, but that is not what the author wanted, and this case I think the author was right. I rail against unnecessary sequels all the time, but this was a good one.
I’m not going to say too much about the plot, other than it takes place over a longer period of time than the first book, taking us from the early 1900s through the early years of the first world war. It remains a lovely portrait of immigrant life in turn of the century NYC. She also introduces two new characters who act as foils and funhouse mirror images for Chava and Ahmad that I think ultimately really ties the whole thing together. The book leaves us in a good place, one where you can imagine your own ending, and I do hope she leaves it that way this time. (I will of course pick up any more books she chooses to write, even if they are sequels.)