Book picks similar to
My Brilliant Life by Kim Ae-ran


fiction
contemporary
literary-fiction
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Flesh and Bone and Water


Luiza Sauma - 2017
    A letter he keeps in his pocket for weeks, but tells no one about.The letter prompts André to remember the days of his youth - torrid afternoons on Ipanema beach with his listless teenage friends, parties in elegant Rio apartments, his after-school job at his father's plastic surgery practice - and, above all, his secret infatuation with the daughter of his family's maid, the intoxicating Luana. Unable to resist the pull of the letter, André embarks on a journey back to Brazil to rediscover his past.

Ghachar Ghochar


Vivek Shanbhag - 2013
    As they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house on the other side of Bangalore, and try to adjust to a new way of life, the family dynamic begins to shift. Allegiances realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things become “ghachar ghochar”—a nonsense phrase uttered by one meaning something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can't be untied. Elegantly written and punctuated by moments of unexpected warmth and humor, Ghachar Ghochar is a quietly enthralling, deeply unsettling novel about the shifting meanings—and consequences—of financial gain in contemporary India.

Pavane for a Dead Princess


Min-gyu Park - 2009
    Pavane for a Dead Princess is his attack upon the beauty-fetish that reigns over popular culture, detailing the relationship between a man with matinee-idol good looks and "the ugliest woman of the century." To complicate matters further, Park also includes a so-called "writer's cut" of the same story, offering alternate versions of the facts, giving the reader the opportunity to imagine all the different ways this same novel might have been written.

Please Look After Mom


Shin Kyung-sook - 2008
    As they argue over the "Missing" flyers they are posting throughout the city - how large of a reward to offer, the best way to phrase the text - they realize that none of them have a recent photograph of Mom. Soon a larger question emerges: do they really know the woman they called Mom? Told by the alternating voices of Mom's daughter, son, her husband and, in the shattering conclusion, by Mom herself, the novel pieces together, Rashomon-style, a life that appears ordinary but is anything but. This is a mystery of one mother that reveals itself to be the mystery of all our mothers: about her triumphs and disappointments and about who she is on her own terms, separate from who she is to her family. If you have ever been a daughter, a son, a husband or a mother, Please Look After Mom is a revelation - one that will bring tears to your eyes.

The Mango Bride


Marivi Soliven Blanco - 2013
    Although her mother labels her life in exile a diminished one, Amparo believes her struggles are a small price to pay for freedom...Like Amparo, Beverly Obejas—an impoverished Filipina waitress—forsakes Manila and comes to Oakland as a mail-order bride in search of a better life. Yet even in the land of plenty, Beverly fails to find the happiness and prosperity she envisioned.As Amparo works to build the immigrant's dream, she becomes entangled in the chaos of Beverly's immigrant nightmare. Their unexpected collision forces them both to make terrible choices and confront a life-changing secret, but through it all they hold fast to family, in all its enduring and surprising transformations.

The Arsonists' City


Hala Alyan - 2021
    It’s the kind of book we are lucky to have.”—Rumaan Alam A rich family story, a personal look at the legacy of war in the Middle East, and an indelible rendering of how we hold on to the people and places we call home The Nasr family is spread across the globe—Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut—a constant touchstone—and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father's recent death, Idris, the family's new patriarch, has decided to sell. The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets—lost loves, bitter jealousies, abandoned passions, deep-set shame—that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together.   In a novel teeming with wisdom, warmth, and characters born of remarkable human insight, award-winning author Hala Alyan shows us again that “fiction is often the best filter for the real world around us” (NPR).

Half a World Away


Mike Gayle - 2019
    She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot ever forget her past.Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a child, Noah always looks forward, never back.When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both.

Of Women and Salt


Gabriela Garcia - 2021
    Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt.From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia's Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals--personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others--that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America's most tangled, honest, human roots.

The City Son


Samrat Upadhyay - 2014
    When Didi discovers that her husband, the Masterji, has been hiding his beautiful lover and their young son Tarun in a nearby city, she takes the Masterji back into her grasp and expels his second family. Tarun’s mother, heartsick and devastated, slowly begins to lose her mind, and Tarun turns to Didi for the mothering he longs for. But as Tarun gets older, Didi’s domination of the boy turns from the emotional to the physical, and the damages she inflicts spiral outward, threatening to destroy Tarun’s one true chance at true happiness. Potent, disturbing, and gorgeously stark in its execution, The City Son is a novel not soon forgotten.

A Good Family


Erik Fassnacht - 2015
    Henry is the once-magical father, whose fear of aging and endangered career lead him to the nightclubs of Chicago's Viagra Triangle. His wife Julie struggles to reclaim her life with a bottle of Zoloft and dreams of her youthful independence. Charlie, the golden-boy son, leaves the lucrative job his father arranged to serve in Afghanistan--and returns angry, damaged and uncertain of his place in the world. And Barkley, the bumbling youngest, is an aspiring writer of geeky science fiction stories now interviewing for his first job at a forbidding Catholic high school. When Henry's health abruptly declines, he tries to return to the home and the life he had dominated. But his family, once totally dependent on his love, physical strength, and income, no longer needs him. As Julie, Charlie, and Barkley begin to find their ways forward, Henry tries desperately to bring them back together. In the end, each one will arrive at a new understanding of what family can--and cannot--be. Unusually assured and perceptive, combining narrative drive with humor, insight, and powerful family dynamics, A Good Family is a memorable debut by former high school teacher Erik Fassnacht.

Lotus


Lijia Zhang - 2017
    She leaned against the glass front of the parlor, one leg bent like a crane's. Luring in the clients with sweet and oily words consumed a surprising amount of energy"Reserved, at times defiant, Lotus is different from the other streetwalkers. Her striking eyes glow under Shenzhen’s neon lights, capturing the attention of Funny Eye, Family Treasure, and a slew of other demanding clients determined to make Lotus their property. Choosing between wealthy, powerful, and dangerous men is no easy feat, but it is a surprising offer from Binbing, a soft-spoken and humble photojournalist, that presents the biggest challenge. Is Lotus willing to fall in love? Is she capable of it?Inspired by the deathbed revelation that the author’s grandmother had been sold to a brothel in her youth,Lotus offers compelling insight into China’s bustling underground world and reveals the surprising strength found in those confronted with impossible choices. Written with compassion and vivid prose, and packed with characters you won’t soon forget, Lijia Zhang's Lotus examines what it means to be an individual in a society that praises restraint in and obedience from its women.

Almond


Won-pyung Sohn - 2017
    He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother aren’t fazed by his condition. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say "thank you," and when to laugh. Yunjae grows up content, even happy, with his small family in this quiet, peaceful space.Then on Christmas Eve—Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday—everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school and begins to bully Yunjae. Against all odds, tormentor and victim learn they have more in common than they realized. Gon is stumped by Yunjae’s impassive calm, while Yunjae thinks if he gets to know the hotheaded Gon, he might learn how to experience true feelings. Drawn by curiosity, the two strike up a surprising friendship. As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people—including a girl at school—something slowly changes inside him. And when Gon suddenly finds his life in danger, it is Yunjae who will step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become a most unlikely hero. The Emissary meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in this poignant and triumphant story about how love, friendship, and persistence can change a life forever.

No One Writes Back


Eun-Jin Jang - 2009
    No One Writes Back is the story of a young man who leaves home with only his blind dog, an MP3 player, and a book, traveling aimlessly for three years, from motel to motel, meeting people on the road. Rather than learn the names of his fellow travelers—or even invent nicknames for them—he assigns them numbers. There's 239, who once dreamed of being a poet, but who now only reads her poems to a friend in a coma; there's 109, who rides trains endlessly because of a broken heart; and 32, who's already decided to commit suicide. The narrator writes letters to these men and women in the hope that he can console them in their various miseries, as well as keep a record of his own experiences: "A letter is like a journal entry for me, except that it gets sent to other people." No one writes back, of course, but that doesn't mean that there isn't some hope that one of them will, someday...

Other People's Children


R.J. Hoffmann - 2021
    But then she miscarried—once, twice, three times. Determined to expand their family, the Durbins turn to adoption. When several adoptions fall through, Gail’s desire for a child overwhelms her. Carli is a pregnant teenager from a blue-collar town nearby, with dreams of going to college and getting out of her mother’s home. When she makes the gut-wrenching decision to give her baby up for adoption, she chooses the Durbins. But Carli’s mother, Marla, has other plans for her grandbaby. In Other People’s Children, three mothers make excruciating choices to protect their families and their dreams—choices that put them at decided odds against one another. You will root for each one of them and wonder just how far you’d go in the same situation. This riveting debut is a thoughtful exploration of love and family, and a heart-pounding page-turner you’ll find impossible to put down.

A Blessed Child


Linn Ullmann - 2005
    Every summer Isak Lövenstad gathers his three daughters by different wives to the windswept Baltic island of Hammarsö. Here Erika, Laura, and Molly know, if only for the season, what it is to be a family, and here, in the society of children, each undergoes the rites of growing up. Though many alliances form and dissolve, none compares to Erika’s bond with the rebellious misfit Ragnar, the intensity of which makes them inseparable. But when they reach the age of fourteen and their relationship threatens to relegate Erika to Ragnar’s outcast state, she suddenly turns away—a common enough teenage betrayal that nonetheless precipitates an incident of such senseless cruelty as to forever alter Isak’s family. Twenty-five years later, returning to Hammarsö to see their father—now eighty, a bereaved widower, and in year-round exile there—the three women confront, finally, the specter of that awful summer, the mark of which each has since carried.Bold and starkly beautiful, A Blessed Child is a haunting parable of innocence lost.