In People Of The Book (Penguin, $15) Hanna, a book conservationist, is entrusted with restoring the six-hundred-year-old Sarajevo Haggadah, which, it is hoped, will unite a ragged Bosnia following the Bosnia and Herzegovina wars. As Hanna begins her work on the mysteries of the text, Geraldine Brooks takes us on an extraordinary journey across six centuries and four continents, giving us the story of the Haggadah as well as the truth about Hanna’s own past. Brooks’s richly layered narrative explores the interfaith strife and heroism that renders the Haggadah a powerful character for those who have loved it over centuries of religious and political conflict. This is a superb novel for those who like their summer reading quick but literary, and who are looking for a smart, engaging book.
Left mostly to her own devices, six-year-old Aasha spends her days lurking in the shadows, bearing witness to the astonishing goings-on in the Big House on Kingfisher Lane. That’s how she knows the true circumstances surrounding her grandmother Paati’s mysterious death, the real reason why her suddenly-distant older sister Uma can’t wait to leave for Columbia University, and why the servant girl, Chellam, once her only ally, is being banished from the family’s home. Set against the sweeping backdrop of post-colonial Malaysia, Preeta Samarasan’s extraordinary debut novel, Evening Is The Whole Day (Mariner, $13.95), uses a fresh, lyrical voice to paint a poignant, intimate portrait of a troubled family.
The Road Home (Back Bay, $14.99) is Rose Tremain’s touching and often humorous saga about an immigrant from the former USSR—the Ukraine? Belorussia?—someplace in that cold and backward part of Europe. Lev has left his little girl with his own mother so he can go to England, partly to make a better life, partly to leave behind the grief over his recently dead wife. He takes any job he can, since he is all but destitute, and fortunately most people are kind. He finally gets a good position in an upscale restaurant where he learns how to cook. His sense of being out of place is never assuaged; he thinks often about his family and his best friend, Rudi. When he learns that a dam will drown their village, he works two jobs to save money to open his own restaurant in the new town that the dam will create.