If you’re a member of the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club you’re already getting my bizarre emails and already know that this month we’re going to read the amazing book, Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel, but in case you’re an honorary member or haven’t joined yet (CLICK HERE TO MAKE IT SO) here’s a little taste of this month’s read that will be heading to you soon:
“In a world were Gods and men dictate the shape of things to come…she will tell her own story.
If you liked Circe, Ariadne or The Witch’s Heart, you’ll love this stunning debut that reimagines the life of Kaikeyi, the vilified mythological queen from one of the most famous Indian epics, the Ramayana.
Kaikeyi is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the kingdom prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.
Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.
But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.”
Fascinating, fast-paced, complicated characters, Indian mythology, a strong female protagonist…it explores religion, history, patriarchy, sexuality and tradition. I literally picked it up to read the first page and ended up reading until 3am because I could not put it down until the end. NO REGRETS! And you don’t need to read the Ramayana to enjoy it. (I read a few Wikipedia pages about the summary and that gave me enough background to see what parts were reimagined but you can go in blind if you like.)
And if you, like me, need a shit-ton of books to get you through the month then you are in luck because this month has some of my favorite new books of the year.
True Biz by Sara Nović (“Partly a tender coming of age story, partly an electrifying tale of political awakening, partly a heartfelt love letter to Deaf culture, TRUE BIZ is a wholly a wonder.” ~ Celeste Ng)
Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott, a poignant and powerful memoir that tackles life, death and existential fear with humor and hope.
Ten Days in a Mad-House, a graphic adaptation by Brad Ricca This is a beautifully rendered graphic novel retelling the true 19th century investigation of Blackwell Asylum by Nellie Bly. If you’re looking for books for young adults who don’t necessarily love to read classics this is a great gateway.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Inspired by true events that rocked the nation, a profoundly moving novel about a Black nurse in post-segregation Alabama who blows the whistle on a terrible wrong done to her patients. Haunting, but important.
Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones, a gorgeously written memoir about disability, motherhood and finding yourself
Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartness, a quirky, tragicomic novel about ghosts, history, and drug addiction
Weird to Exist: Simple Comics for Complex Feelings by Alison Zai, a darkly funny comic collection about the absurdity and beauty of life
Little Foxes Took Up Matches by Katya Kazbek, a dark LGBTQ punk-rock coming-of-age story set in Russia
A Tiny Upward Shove: a Novel by Melissa Chadburn, Filipino folklore, gritty magical realism, dark revenge, true crime.
Fine: A Comic About Gender by Rhea Ewing, enlightening and educational graphic novel
Maria, Maria by Marytza K. Rubio, a collection of magical realism short stories
And check your email (you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help) because Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, who wrote last month’s book – When We Were Birds – is going to to do a live zoom bookclub meeting with us next week and I can’t wait to discuss all the details. In fact, I’m opening up discussion on the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club facebook page if you’re ready to discuss it, but no worries if you haven’t gotten to it yet. The discussions stay open forever. And just in case you don’t do facebook I’m leaving my thoughts on When We Were Birds in the comments below.
Thank you again for all of your support! You make an incredible difference to our indie bookshop and to the authors you support!