You Bring the Distant Near

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2017

Member Reviews

You Bring the Distant Near is a multi-generational tale about this one family, and more specifically the women in this family. They are Bengali and immigrate to America from London in the 1970s. The main crux of this story is about the two sisters, Sonia and Tara, and their experiences. The writing, the story at the heart of this, the family, everything was just absolutely amazing. I really loved reading about 1970s America from this family's perspective. I did find that the final section, which follows their respective daughters, didn't quite mesh as well with the rest of the story. But overall, this was an incredible novel and I'd highly recommend it.
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Told in the alternating voices of the Das sisters and their daughters, You Bring the Distant Near is the story of three generations of women in a Bengali family, who immigrated to the United States. The bond between Sonia and Tara Das is explored as they each struggle find their own place in America, all while obeying the cultural traditions of their family. Supportive and united, each sister takes a separate path in life, which leads Tara to success as a film star back home in India and and Sonia into a full embrace of  an inclusive American culture and a happy interracial marriage in New York.  Their daughters, Chantal and Anna, in turn have very different upbringings, but all the threads of this family’s disparate experiences come together when Anna is sent back to the US to finish high school.  Beautifully written with well-drawn and complex characters, the novel realistically portrays the nuanced relationships between the women.  The rich Bengali culture weaves through the three generations, influencing each of the women in different ways.  Strongly recommended as an addition to your collection of novels on the immigrant experience, filled positive messages about acceptance, integration, and  identity.
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I adored this journey of family and self discovery. Gorgeously written. Mitali has a gift that shines through her writing, always.
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Ever since I saw this beautiful cover, I’ve wanted You Bring the Distant Near. Yes, I’m shallow. So what? It’s okay because this time it actually didn’t lead me astray. You Bring the Distant Near verges on adult fiction rather than YA, but it’s a beautifully done family saga in microcosm either way.

In You Bring the Distant Near, Perkins focuses on five women in one family, with a particular focus on their romances. You start out with Sonia and Tara as teens, immigrating from the UK to the US and trying to find a place in US culture. From there, the narrative moves to Shanti and Anna, Sonia and Tara’s daughters. Sonia and Tara’s mother Ranee has a couple of chapters throughout, in which she comes to accept American culture and embrace her multicultural family. With the age of the protagonists and the way the subjects are handled, it seems more aimed at an adult audience than a teen one, but I didn’t really mind.

A story like this is really hard to pull off well, especially in such a short novel, but Perkins succeeds. The narration trades back in forth between the various girls, and I was really surprised by how much I ended up feeling invested in each narrative. It helps that they tend to center on romance, while not being about romance as much as family. Of all the perspectives, I likes Sonia and Shanti’s the best, I think, but I was surprised by how much I came to care about Ranee, who initially I didn’t like at all. It’s just really well done, and it highlights some of the positives of American culture, while not presenting the fairy tale version that absolutely doesn’t exist.

Though I had a print ARC, I ended up choosing the audiobook, and I’m glad I did. It’s always lovely to get a full cast for a multiple POV book, and I really loved the variety of voices and accents. Admittedly, some of the narrators were not so great at doing accents not their own (the narrator who reads for Sonia especially struggles with American accents).

So yeah, if you’re looking for the typical YA narrative, this may not please you, but it’s brilliantly done and multicultural af, so I would absolutely recommend it otherwise.
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I always enjoy books about girls coming to learn about their families and cultures, and this book did not disappoint in that aspect. That said, the writing didn't bring anything new to the table and I found myself having a hard time getting into it. I'm still giving the book a pretty good rating, as I think it may be a case of "it's not the book, it's me", and I will try this one again at a later time. (If I enjoy it more later on, I'll come back and rewrite this as a full review!)
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Novels that cover multiple generations within a family are my jam, so I loved most of this book. The first stories focus on two sisters as their family moves from India to London to New York. As they grow up and begin their own lives, the focus moves to their daughters. The book ends by circling back around to give voice to the mother of the original narrators. The two sisters at the beginning were the most interesting for me, but all of the stories provide a fascinating look at what it's like to hold onto Bengali traditions while also adjusting to American customs. My only real complaint is that the matriarch of the family only got a few pages to tell her story, instead of multiple chapters.
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Follow 3 generations of women as they navigate new American life and all that comes with it; love, friendships, loss, and more.

Ranee is finding it hard to adjust to life in America.  Bengal is her home, and even though she and her daughters have lived in many places, America is so different from anything she has ever known.  Her daughters, Tara and Sonia, are adjusting to life in a new place; Sonia finds solace in her local library, while Tara learns to fit in by emulating Marcia Brady.  Each girl has her own secret aspirations, ones that their very traditional mother finds hard to understand at times.  Flash forward and Tara and Sonia are now young adults with their own new set of challenges they are facing.  The last generation Perkins introduces readers to are Tara and Sonia's daughters who are in high school and facing their own set of challenges.  

Perkins does a fantastic job of creating vivid characters that are feeling the very real pressures of living in a new country, being a woman of color, and more.  Every character is on her own journey; no one is perfect, but relatable in her own way.  Perkins uses her own childhood and family memories to really bring this story to life.

I highly recommend this book to all libraries, Perkins has crafted an amazing novel with You Bring the Distant Near.
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Sadly, this is one of my DNF pile. I tried so hard to give this a chance but to no avail.
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You Bring the Distant Near is a multi-generational read that centers around the complexities of navigating multiple cultures, the immigrant experience, and understanding the different generations. While it doesn't offer anything new to the common motif in immigrant stories, it does a nice job in highlighting the importance of finding ones home despite where you are in the world.
   The story opens in 1970s New York, where the Das family has immigrated from England in hopes of planting roots and finding acceptance. Sisters Tara and Sonia are two teen girls who crave personal freedom and they often go against their mother Ranee's strict and traditional Indian values. Older sister Tara is known for her looks and her charisma is contagious. She longs to be an actress. Younger sister Sonia is introverted, incredibly intelligent, and a budding feminist Sonia. The tumultuous relationship between Sunny and Ranee is at the heart of the novel, representing the clash and resistance of and ultimate blending of cultures. In the United States, Ranee struggles in vain to hold on to her "Indianness," not only for herself, but also for her children. I really enjoyed this first half of the book as I connected with Sunny and Ranee the most. I could easily understand their conflicts between personal desire and their responsibilities to their culture. I think this is the strongest aspect of the book. I also appreciated the complexities of race and culture when it came to interracial marriage and gender roles.
  The second half of the book jumps through time where both Tara and Sunny have established lives with marriage and children. We now follow the narratives of their daughters, Anna and Chantal respectively. It is only through her connection to her granddaughters, Chantal and Anna that Ranee finds redemption and transformation. For me the second half of the book falters a bit as Perkins tries to touch upon different issues hurriedly such as racial imposter syndrome (where a person from multiple cultures don't see themselves in any culture), Islamophobia, and American patriotism.
  Though I enjoyed the multi-generational aspect to the story, which is not common in YA litertature, I think the book might have been stronger if there were two companion novels. Chantal and Anna are mirror images of their mothers and I would have liked to see them grow as individuals. I would also have loved for the nuisance and complex themes be explored in more details. Overall, You Bring the Distant Near is an enjoyable read that many readers can see themselves and shines a light on an experience that is actually more familiar than we think.
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My review can be seen at RT Book Reviews.
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You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins 100% deserves all the praise. IT IS SO GOOD. Also, it deserves all kinds of attention. I can’t say for sure if it has been getting attention on the bookish internets because I’ve really just been holed up disconnected, reading all the books and hanging with my kiddo instead of engaging. Anyways, You Bring The Distant Near is the second book I’ve read by Perkins (see: Bamboo People) but now I know FOR SURE I AM GOING TO READ HER OTHER BOOKS. And get all shouty because I get shouty about things that are good.

Perkins’ latest book follows basically six characters. It opens up with a swim meet when character Sonia is kind of young. Then it transitions to Sonia and her sister, Tara, moving to New York with their mother to meet up with their father who got a job in the United States. We get to see Sonia and Tara become kind of Americanized but also keep some of their roots as well. From there the story goes on to the next generation with cousins Anna and Chantel, again exploring identity. The book then ends with a focus on Ranee, the matriarch of this wonderful family.

Sonia and Tara have their part of You Bring The Distant Near set in the 1970s. That kind of made me (born in the late 80s) feel young. Sonia is incredibly smart and really into books. She also kinds herself getting into the equal rights movement and becoming a feminist. I am here for that. Her sister Tara isn’t as academically inclined, but she’s smart and valued too. Tara is a gifted actress and finds herself taking on different roles in real life to kind of help her adjust — from Twiggy to Marcia. I found myself really interested in reading about Sonia and Tara.

Anna and Chantel are cousins and obviously the children of Sonia and Tara. Anna ends up moving from India to New York City and staying with her grandmother. She goes to school with Chantel. It is a bit of a learning curve for her as she must adjust to the culture, the same as her mother and aunt did. However, she really does find her niche and you can’t help but root for her. As for Chantel, she struggles a little bit with her identity being multiracial. She ends up really being pretty cool though – a popular athlete.

You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins is a beautifully written book about multiple generations of women in a Bengali family. It is fascinating to see how time impacts this family. I loved seeing how even Ranee is a dynamic character. This book is engrossing. It’s well paced. And well, the characterization cannot be beat. Definitely would recommend to you if you’re into stories that span decades.
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The writing style, wording, and story are absolutely beautiful. The pacing feels natural, and the issues that the story confronts are well-handled, and no dialogue ever feels stilted or forced. "You Bring the Distant Near" is easily a favorite with its clever characters and lovely writing.
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Excerpt from Review: "... I was surprised when I finally realized that You Bring the Distant Near was actually a teen novel.  Sure, the story is told through the eyes of the girls as teenagers, but we do see some things through the eyes of Ranee Das as well (toward the end, anyway) and the subject matter is not just kid stuff, though teen novels rarely are these days.  I suppose what I am trying to say is that Mitali Perkins’ writing is so captivating and her characters are so real and likeable, that this book is enjoyable for people of any age, including myself (and I’m far…ahem…maybe not too far…from being a teenager)..."
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Did not finish -wasn't was I was expecting. Not bad, just not in my interests.
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I'm actually not posting a review of this book on my blog or goodreads, due to the fact that this book was a DNF for me. It was no fault of the book itself, it just turns out that this didn't really line up with my reading tastes. I will say I really enjoyed the writing style for what I did read, but I've just been sitting on this ARC for months and could never get into it. I'm really sorry about that.
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This wonderful book is based on Indian culture. It is a multi-generational book spanning the lives of 5 women in the one family. We follow them as they try to acclimate to American culture and find find their identities. I feel it is an important read to get a glimpse inside another culture.
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A truly inspiring story. Beautifully written. An amazing creation.
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Multiple reasons why I really liked this book:
- The premise: Spans countries and multiple generations of women with epic family drama throughout - what else do I need?
- The characters: Perfectly developed, realistic with a strong sense of individuality. Ranee was the epitome of a typical desi mom and Sonia, oh my god, writer, reader and literary fangirl - how could I resist all this relatability? Tara (Starry) though, was the most realistic, especially in her high school phase where she puts on different masks and pretends to be someone she's not to blend in, the struggle of becoming American 'properly'. I think every young adult whose family migrated to another country can relate and connect with this, every high-schooler in general can relate. 
- The theme of home is where the stories are. As an individual who had an identity crisis because of constantly going back and forth to living in two different cities, I wholeheartedly loved this!
- Constructed a perfect image of the family turmoil which occurs when there is an interracial marriage in desi families, and the problems that their children face - black enough, indian enough
- It was a treat to see that this discussed the rights of modest woman and secondary characters were given a strong voice too, loved the whole makeover of the changing room, couldn't imagine how I'd react if I had to be naked in front of a room full of girls in the name of 'women should be proud of their bodies'. I mean great, yes, I agree with that but that doesn't mean I'll ever be comfortable with someone invading such a personal space.
- The nosy aunty scenes with skin color issues being represented. The issues EVERY SINGLE DESI GIRL FACES!
- A lot of intriguing music, movie, tv shows, and book references from different cultures. 
- A limited representation of Islamophobia and the affects of 9/11

Reasons because of which this didn't get a 5 star rating:
- Conversations in the family felt natural but not ones with outsiders or friends e.g. Sonia and Sahara's conversations. 
- Sonia's character got a little infuriating in terms of not understanding her mother's grief and instead wanting to get her out of her self-constructed patriarchal prison. Not everything has to be connected to being a feminist and patriarchy; different people take and handle grief differently.
- This one problematic thing in what Shanti kept saying about rich people - this particular sentence in the book, "Why don't these kinds of people have the right set of values?" My immediate response was: who is to decide what these 'right' set of values are? Let everyone be. Not every rich person is somehow going to be the extremely generalised and negative image which media perpetuates. 
- The End: Overall the novel had substantial drama but the end was so anti-climatic, it made me go like okayy.
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I had very few problems with this novel. The first is that I wish it had been longer so that I could have had more time with each of the characters. The second is that I wish it hadn't ended. I really loved seeing each of the women evolve in their lives along with the times. While the skipping through the years did require filling in the blanks a few times, it was easy enough to follow what each character had been up to in the meantime. I really enjoyed this one.
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