A fierce debut novel about mothers and daughters, haves and have-nots, and the stark realities behind the American Dream
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 naïve, 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 she learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where Bashkim’s 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 in equally gripping parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story.
The Sexy Nerd ‘Revue’
The prose written between mother and daughter where their voices are almost an exact match, proved to be quite eloquently told. In society, it is always quoted, “like father, like son,” well, I’d like to challenge that and say the same for this mother/daughter duo. Young Elsie is working hard on the American dream, to get enough tips so she can get the hell out of her boring town and begin anew. Of course, where there are dreams are often monkey wrenches thrown in the mix and this story was no different. Elsie meets Bashkim and falls head over heels in love. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue, but unfortunately for her, Bashkim is already married. His wife was a distant memory from Albania. Baskhim’s hopes of starting a new life in America and chasing away his nightmare of life back in Albania.
As Elsie and Bashkim continue to get closer, Elsie finds herself in the family way. Not only does she feel guilty for sleeping with a married man, no matter how much he professes that he’s where he wants to be, now she’s expecting his child. What she wants to know is where his heart lies?
Many years later, Luljeta, a product of the union of Elsie and Bashkim, finds herself in high school ready to embark on college life soon enough, only to find out that she did not make it into NYU. And, to make matters worse, she finds herself sitting before the principal because of an unfortunate incident she got into with another student. Luljeta is quickly learning new things about herself, and one of them is finding her voice and not apologizing for the way she thinks and feels. Her mother has instilled in her that her father, Bashkim, is basically a bum that wants nothing to do with them, but Luljeta is very inquisitive and decides to find out exactly what happened between her mother and he.
As the reader continues to venture down this story, it will become apparent that life doesn’t always go quite the way we plan, as if anyone living hasn’t figured that out by now. I truly enjoyed this story. I must say it was a little too wordy for me in the beginning and a bit slow, but once I got the rhythm of the story, I couldn’t get enough between these two. It’s funny how you may find yourself vowing to never turn out like your parents, and that’s the very person you end up becoming. I suppose the joke is on us kids. This was a great story and mesmerizing read. Enjoy!