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Book Box: Family matters

SINGAPORE – In this week’s Book Box, The Straits Times looks at four novels that explore the obligations of family. Buy the books at Amazon. These articles include affiliate links. When you buy through them, we may earn a small commission.

Book review: Colson Whitehead steals the show in slick crime novel Crook Manifesto

Parents who went to unthinkable lengths to secure American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s Eras concert tickets for their offspring will sympathise with Ray Carney.

It is 1971, the start of the disco decade in dizzying, decaying New York City, and Carney is retired from his double life as a fence for stolen goods.

Now, he maintains a singular existence as a furniture store owner, a family man and an upstanding pillar of the African-American community.

But when his teenage daughter May clamours to go to a Jackson 5 concert, Carney is forced to hit up his old criminal contacts for those coveted tickets – and, in so doing, is drawn back into the city’s gritty underworld.


Book review: Elizabeth Acevedo’s Family Lore traces lives of magical Dominican-American women in New York

A banquet for one’s death without immediate cause may sound perverse and megalomaniac. But when the matriarch throwing it is known for having prescience in matters of mortality, the rest of the family sits up and takes notice.

Flor, an immigrant to America from the Dominican Republic, has built a life she can be proud of in The Big Apple with her three sisters.

One day, she is inspired by the scene of a living wake in a Netflix documentary, and goes about arranging her own in her family group chat.

Written with lyricism and thorough care for the characters, Family Lore is Dominican-American poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s first adult offering.


Book review: Christy Lefteri’s The Book Of Fire explores trauma and catharsis

The Book Of Fire is a tale about the fading embers of morality and hope in the aftermath of catastrophe.

The story follows an Anglo-Greek family as it contends with the trauma of a forest fire that engulfs its village.

Narrator Irini fruitlessly attempts to draw her husband, Tasso, out of his depression and remain optimistic for the sake of their daughter, Chara.

Property developer Trachonides, whom the villagers nickname Mr Monk because of his reclusiveness, starts the fire out of greed.

He intends to burn 2ha of land to build a boutique hotel, but the fire destroys 121,400ha of forest.

The physical experience of the fire is seared into the psyche of the characters, as they experience feelings and sensations of heat even after the disaster.


Book review: Sifting through memories in Kyung-sook Shin’s I Went To See My Father

When her mother is taken to a hospital in Seoul for medical treatment, writer Hon returns home to care for her lonely father. He had unexpectedly wept at the send-off, shocking Hon out of her own grief.

This is the first time in two years that she is setting foot in her home town J–, a village in South Korea.

Living with her aged father forces Hon to confront whether she truly knew him, as she sifts through belongings, correspondences, and stories from friends and family that paint a different portrait of the man she thought she knew. 

I Went To See My Father comes from acclaimed South Korean writer Kyung-sook Shin, the first woman to win the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011 for Please Look After Mom, translated by Chi-young Kim.


The Straits Times’ Weekly Bestsellers Sept 9

George Yeo: Musings – Series Three tops this week’s list of non-fiction bestsellers.


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