As college grows more distant in my life’s rear-view mirror, my patience for subtlety in literature dwindles. Since reading is no longer “work” for me, I have trouble muscling up the gumption for novels that require a lot of their readers. Especially this summer, I have been hungry for page-turning, plot-driven novels with twists and turns and sordid secrets.
So maybe it’s a case of right book, wrong time. Even though I enjoyed it, Bright Lines was a bit too cautious for me, deliberate when I craved speed, understated when I wanted an explosion. The supposed big reveal at the end had an effect more like the pop of a cap gun than the reverberation of a well-timed bomb.
The bones of the book are solid. Ella and Charu are cousins, raised as sisters since Ella’s parents were killed when she was a child. Charu’s parents, Anwar and Hashi, brought Ella to live with them in Brooklyn, a different world from her native Bangladesh. The book weaves together several different strands that together make up the family’s life: Ella’s struggle to understand and embody her unique gender and sexual identity, Charu’s efforts to numb the pain of loss with physical intimacy, and Anwar’s bumbling attempts to make himself and his family happy while guarding—and possibly flat-out ignoring—hard truths from his past. Clearly, there’s plenty of drama and intrigue here, but for some reason I didn’t feel the intended impact.
I don’t think I’ve lost my appreciation for nuance entirely. I’m sure my mood will cycle back around, and I’ll be craving happy sigh-inducing sentences and complex prose again in good time. For now, I’m not going to fight against the impulse for more commercial, fast-paced fiction. All reading is good reading, right?
With regards to Penguin and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale August 11.