Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Laskar (The Atlas of Reds and Blues) delivers a poignant coming-of-age story of a Bengali American young woman and the death of her best friend. In a suburb of Raleigh, N.C., Heera Sanyal heeds the expectations of her immigrant parents but yearns for the American lifestyle of her best friend, Marie Grimaldi, with whom she spends long gleeful hours on the phone. Heera also gets up to late-night hijinks with Marie's older brother, Marco, such as tagging water towers with graffiti. Then, on the walk home after their school's Halloween carnival, Marie is killed by a drunk driver. Grief-stricken Heera quits her extracurricular activities but still works on her college applications, while Marco turns to booze and girls. Further misfortune emerges as Heera's mother is diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, causing the family to divert Heera's college fund for medical treatments. With few choices, Heera strikes a Faustian bargain of sorts by agreeing to an arranged marriage with a 26-year-old Bengali stockbroker, which would allow her to live in New York City with his family and attend the school of her dreams. The author intertwines lyrical prose (Heera lives in her "star-spangled desires like a dream") with lucid observations. This stands out as a fully realized study of contrasts. Agent: Reiko Davis, DeFiore and Company. (May)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A first-generation Indian American teenager's world shatters when her best friend is killed in a car accident, fracturing her plans and reshaping her family. Growing up in 1980s Raleigh, Heera longs to be a normal American teenager. But her Bengali parents are strict and unyielding on everything from clothes to food, unwilling to adapt any more than they must to the country they immigrated to before Heera's birth. Heera rebels with her best friend, Marie, and Marie's older brother, Marco, her crush. The siblings look out for Heera, helping her sneak out and claim small victories in her quest for freedom. But when a drunken driver kills Marie while the three are leaving a party, Heera struggles to find the comfort she needs from her parents until further tragedy strikes the family and their close-knit community. On the verge of college, Heera feels conflicting loyalties and expectations and struggles to carve out the life she wants. This tight, insightful novel is built on familiar themes of struggles in immigrant families between first-generation children and their parents. But the author eschews simple, binary answers to the challenges Heera and her family face. Sometimes the expectations placed on Heera are suffocating, and other times her ever watchful parents and their community form a safety net, a fact that becomes especially clear in the wake of Marie's death, when Marco becomes unraveled under a lack of supervision and guidance. By following Heera from high school to adulthood, the author teases out nuanced tensions in the parent-child dynamic that add richness to this oft-explored topic. A heartbreaking examination of family ties. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.