And it’s of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & The Light!
Due to the impact of COVID19 on publishing, Stranger on the Home Front has been pushed back to Spring 2021 instead of being released September this year. You can preorder it here for any kid in your life who is interested in historical fiction, WWI, or the history of the Indian-American community.
Disclaimer: I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This is the heartbreaking though not ultimately tragic story of Margot Allen, a vicar’s daughter in 1919 who accidentally became pregnant at sixteen and whose son is now being raised as her younger brother. Meanwhile, the father, formerly Missing in Action in WWI, returns, and nineteen-year-old Margot still hasn’t told him what really happened or why she stopped speaking to him. Over Christmas, she gets a second chance to determine the course of her life, but can she overcome her fear to tell her maybe-ex-boyfriend that he’s a father, and can she reveal the truth and raise her own child without irreparably hurting her mother–who lost her own baby a few years ago?
There’s a lot of exposition that could probably have been handled more smoothly, though some of it is necessary as major events in the storyline took place years before the book starts. Margot is an unusual YA protagonist. She doesn’t have any big dreams or strong interests even before the depression that comes with her unwanted pregnancy and the trauma of giving up her child. She’s pretty and social and her intelligence is mostly ignored by others, but she doesn’t stress it herself. She was a child before she had her baby and her new adult self is a mess of hurt; her pain is her defining feature. She “funks” telling her boyfriend when he first returns, and is trying to figure out if she dares try again.
But she’s very real despite the vagueness of her character in many ways. The novel totally immerses you in Margot’s head over the course of a fateful Christmas break, and doesn’t provide any easy answers to Margot’s dilemmas. Nor does her brother Stephen have a closed arc–his dissatisfaction and trauma after his wartime service is left open, as many things in life are. Margot’s lover Harry is almost too good to be true, but he has complex feelings of his own. The ending is neither completely happy nor hopeless; it’s a bit abrupt but fits with the realness and messiness of the whole experience. I was crying by the end of the book. Despite some of the overly expository and simple style of writing, it was incredibly moving.
During this trying time with the epidemic, Jo Walton, Lauren Schiller, and I have organized a project to share free stories for the entertainment of those stuck at home. We have a great lineup of authors (Daniel Abraham, Mike Allen, Leah Bobet, Pamela Dean, Max Gladstone, Rosemary Kirstein, Naomi Kritzer, Marissa Lingen, Usman Malik, Ada Palmer, Laurie Penny, Ellen Kushner, and more!), and while all stories will be free, any funds raised on the Patreon will go to pay the authors and to Cittadini del Mondo, an Italian charity helping asylum seekers.
Check it out here, the first story is by Jo herself!
Also, my poem “Creon’s Apology” will be appearing in Liminality, as I just found out today!
Here’s the cover for my World War I middle grade novel, Stranger on the Home Front, featuring a young Punjabi-American girl whose father is caught up in the Hindu-German Conspiracy trial.
Image description: a young girl holding a newspaper that says WAR!, walking in front of a classroom chalkboard with an American flag over it.
Book description: It’s 1916, and Europe is at war. Yet Margaret Singh, living an entire ocean away in California, is unaffected. Then the United States enters the war against Germany. Suddenly the entire country is up in arms against those who seem “un-American” or speak against the country’s ally, Great Britain. When Margaret’s father is arrested for his ties to the Ghadar Party, a group of Indian immigrants seeking to win India’s independence from Great Britain, Margaret’s own allegiances are called into question. But she was born in America and America itself fought to be freed from British rule. So what does it even mean to be American?
Nice twisty Jacobean psychological thriller, based on the real case of the Overbury murder, with fun unreliable narration. I deducted a star because of the flatness of one of the characters, who’s just too cold and evil to be interesting after the deception is revealed, but the author really got me with the red herring villain. Even the sympathetic character is marred by stalkerishness and impulsivity, but you nonetheless feel bad for the situation they find themselves in. Enjoyed the character of canny King James I as well. Some of the language feels too modern (there’s a usage of “lynching,” which was named after a specific person long after the story). But I was gripped and could barely put the book down.
(I am using gender neutral language because there are two narrators, “Him” and “Her,” and revealing which one is lying would be a spoiler).