Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brass by Xhenet Aliu

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel and dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and na├»ve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now, it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when Bashkim learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where his heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind.

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she’s stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie—a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

Told from two alternating points of view two decades apart this is the story of Elsie, the single mom who started out with high hopes and good intentions when she fell in love with a married man.

"It was 1996, the middle of March, a brutal part of the year when spring was supposed to hit but didn't, when I'd given up on ever being warm again."

Elsie's only daughter Luljeta both loves and hates her mother, never quite feeling like she fits in anywhere. She has been told very little about her father and now that she is growing from child to young woman decides to find out the truth for herself.

Part love story, part coming of age tale, part family drama but without being sappy this bittersweet novel touched my heart and hit my funny bone with sarcastic wit.

4 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.

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