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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe



Blurb from Goodreads
Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after years of absence, Lucas is a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera's life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother's homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel who escaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth? 

Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love, and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a wildly accomplished, stunningly emotional book. 
My Review:
I am honestly torn between four and a half and five stars for this one -- it's almost like I don't even know what five stars means anymore.  That being, said, this is definitely one of my favorite reads of this year and also completely surprised me.  Not because I wasn't expecting it to be good but because not only was the writing absolutely astounding but the story also hooked me from the beginning.  I loved the way in which this story was told -- each chapter began with a letter from Vera to her boyfriend and then transitioned to a first person POV from Lucas, Vera's father; there was some overlap but it was so interesting to have each scene told from such varied perspectives, none of which was repetitive.  The epistolary format from Vera coupled with the first person POV from Lucas worked so well that I looked forward to the alternating narratives to get a complete picture of what was going on.  Most of the book takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania and it was made to seem so, so magical!  Of course, there was also this very serious undercurrent of history and sorrow to the city from its German occupation during World War II.  Many of the characters in the book are Jewish and American and have come to the city for a history tour and to try and find out more about their relatives that lived in Vilnius before and during the occupation; many of their relatives were in concentration camps or were the only survivors of their family because they somehow escaped.  It may seem like there are a lot of threads to this story but it didn't feel that way when reading it -- everything and everyone seemed interconnected.  I really loved this book; it has its sad and scary moments but it is so beautiful in both.

I highly recommend this to fans of literary fiction; this is a brilliant story and a stunning portrayal of a different side of bi-polarism -- being a semi-absent parent to a bi-polar teenager.  And yet, it is so much more -- it is about our history, our genealogy, our second chances and, yes, a parent's love.  I was reminded of some my other all-time favorites when I finished this one -- not necessarily because of the similarity in the plots, although you can find similar threads in all of these, but because I was just so blown away with awe and beauty --  Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel.  Dear Fang, With Love comes out todayMay 24, 2016, you can purchase HERE, and I hope you consider reading this one!
Yet who was anyone to police someone else's thoughts and decide which were sane and which insane? Who were doctors to inspect my daughter's brain, determine that her ideas were delusions, her mind unfit? That was the thing about bipolar--there was no blood test, no brain scan, nothing that went into the diagnosis except one person deciding another person was insane.

12 comments:

  1. oh this one sounds so good. I added it to my tbr. I love mental health books. It helps me understand what its really like. I think that is very important. Great review.

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  2. I love the stories that hook you from the very beginning. Wonderful review!

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  3. Wow! This one looks completely different than I thought it would be from the synopsis. The synopsis looks a little disjointed in its vagueness, but you really perked my eyes and ears with the alternating perspectives, especially with one perspective being the letters written from Vera to her boyfriend. I'm fascinated with books that put an emphasis on mental illness if they are done well. This looks like a winner.

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  4. "it is about our history, our genealogy, our second chances and, yes, a parent's love."

    Oh, I love that! This sounds like a wonderful book.

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  5. Interesting. I love Donna Tartt and Marisha Pessl (lol autocorrect keeps changing the spellings - hope I fixed them for good!) so will give this a try!
    Jen @ YA Romantics

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  6. This is very interesting sounding! I'll have to look into this one!

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  7. oh wow this sounds AMAZING and I really want to check it out! I'm not really a literary fiction kind of person though, sooo, it might be risky hhe. But hey what's life if we don't try things out of our comfort zones now and then right?!? *dashes off to goodreads* This is a marvellous review! :D
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

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  8. Wow this sounds really interesting and like such an amazing read. I am not sure who I haven't seen this one around. Wonderful review!!

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  9. Oh wow, this sounds wonderful -- and heartbreaking! Thanks for an awesome review!

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  10. This sounds so, so good and so unique! I love a book that can bring something original and this definitely sounds like it does. I'm already intrigued by the background with Lucas and Katya, with Vera's breakdown and diagnosis, with the Lithuanian setting. And your review definitely makes me want to read this. I just checked and my library has it on order so I've already placed a hold for it. Wonderful review, Eva!

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

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  11. I haven't read anything set in Lithuania. That alone has my interest piqued. This sounds like a really good one and I'm glad you enjoyed it so much!!

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  12. How did you find this one? It sounds amazing!!! I'm actually going to recommend it to a friend of mine who is from Lithuania so she'll get a kick out of reading a book set there. And it's a brilliant story?!?! Awesome!! Great review!!

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