The fourth month of the year has finally concluded. But as the say, every ending is a new beginning. However, before I commence my May reading journey, let me first flash back to the month that was. Here is the first part of my book hauls in April. In keeping with my reading theme for the month, these are all works of Asian authors. Happy reading everyone and have a great weekend ahead. Always keep safe, too.

Title: The Committed
Author: Viet Thanh Nguyen
Publisher: Grove Press
Publishing Date: March 2021
No. of Pages: 341

Synopsis: “The long-awaited follow up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer, which has sold more than one million copies worldwide, The Committed follows the man of two minds as he arrives in Paris in the early 1980s with his blood brother Bon. The pair try to overcome their pasts and ensure their future by engaging in capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing.

Traumatized by his reeducation at the hands of his former best friend, Man, and struggling to assimilate into French culture, the Sympathizer finds Paris both seductive and disturbing. As he falls in with a group of left-wing intellectuals whom he meets at dinner parties given by his French Vietnamese “aunt,” he finds stimulation for his mind but also customers for his narcotic merchandise. But the new life he is making has perils he has not foreseen, whether the self-torture of addiction, the authoritarianism of a state locked in a colonial mindset, or the seeming paradox of how to reunite his two closes friends whose worldviews put them in absolute opposition. The Sympathizer will need all his wits, resourcefulness, and moral flexibility if he is to prevail.

Both suspenseful and existential, The Committed is a blistering portrayal of commitment and betrayal that will cement Viet Thanh Nguyen’s position in the firmament of American letters.”

Title: Almond
Author: Sohn Won-Pyung
Translator: Sandy Joosun Lee
Publisher: Harper Via
Publishing Date: 2020
No. of Pages: 251

Synopsis: “This story is, in short, a bout a monster meeting another monster. One of the monsters is me.

Yunjae was born with a brain condition called alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. 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 provide him with a safe and content life. Their little home above his mother’s used-book store is decorated with colorful Post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh.

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 they develop a surprising bond.

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 at risk, Yunjae will have the chance to step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become the hero of his own story.

In the vein of The Emissary and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Almost is a beautifully written, unique novel that is as charming as it is a tribute to how love, friendship, and persistence can change a life forever.”

Title: Insurrecto
Author: Gina Apostol
Publisher: Soho Press Inc.
Publishing Date: 2018
No. of Pages: 314

Synopsis: “Two women embark on a road trip in Duterte’s Philippines, collaborating and clashing on a fil script about a forgotten massacre during the Philippine-American War.

An ambitious American filmmaker seeks help from Magsalin, a Filipina translator, in producing a film about an incident in Balangiga, Samar: In 1901, Filipino revolutionaries attacked an American garrison, and in retaliation, American soldiers obliterated the countryside. Magsalin reads the filmmaker’s screenplay and begins her own competing version.

Startlingly innovative in its kaleidoscopic structure, Insurrecto tells the stories of women – artists. lovers, revolutionaries, daughters – finding their way to their own truths and histories, and leds us to the dark heart of a war that would shape the next century of Philippine and American history.”

Title: Grimus
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Overlook Press
Publishing Date: 1982
No. of Pages: 319

Synopsis: “’A mixture of science fiction and folktale, past and future, primitive and present-day . . . Thunderous and touching.’
Financial Times

After drinking an elixir that bestows immortality upon him, a young Indian named Flapping Eagle spends the next seven hundred years sailing the seas with the blessing — and ultimately the burden — of living forever. Eventually, weary of the sameness of life, he journeys to the mountainous Calf Island to regain his mortality. There he meets other immortals obsessed with their own stasis and sets out to scale the island’s peak, from which the mysterious and corrosive Grimus Effect emits. Through a series of thrilling quests and encounters, Flapping Eagle comes face-to-face with the island’s creator and unwinds the mysteries of his own humanity. Salman Rushdie’s celebrated debut novel remains as powerful and as haunting as when it was first published more than thirty years ago.

‘A book to be read twice . . . [Grimus] is literate, it is fun, it is meaningful, and perhaps most important, it pushes the boundaries of the form outward.’
Los Angeles Times (Source: Goodreads)”

Title: The Woman in the Dunes
Author: Kobo Abe
Translator: E. Dale Saunders
Publisher: Vintage International
Publishing Date: April 1991
No. of Pages: 241

Synopsis: “The Woman in the Dunes, by celebrated writer and thinker Kobo Abe, combines the essence of myth, suspense, and the existential novel.

After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.”

Title: Rich Like Us
Author: Nayantara Sahgal
Publisher: Sceptre
Publishing Date: 1987
No. of Pages: 266

Synopsis: “A story of India: the recent India of Mrs Gandhi’s Emergency when power became arbitrary once more, when – as always in such times -the corrupt, the opportunists, and the bully flourished.

A story of an older India, of a generation who remember the British Raj and Partition, of the continuities and the ties of family and caste and religion that stretch back and back.

But above all, and memorably, it is a story of people: of Rose, the Cockney memsahib, of Western-educated Sonali and traditionally brought-up Mona, of Ravi, Marxist turned placeman, and Kishori Lal, the old idealist who finds that once again a man can be imprisoned just for what he thinks.”

Title: Convenience Store Woman
Author: Sayaka Murata
Translator: Ginny Tapley Takemori
Publisher: Granta Publications
Publishing Date: 2019
No. of Pages: 163

Synopsis: “She’s thirty-six years old, she’s never had a boyfriend and she’s been working in the same convenience store for eighteen years.

Her parents whish she’d get a better job. Her friends wonder why she won’t get married.

But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she’s not going to let anyone take her awy from her convenience store…”