Bright Lines – a novel
Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam – a writer, multimedia artist, and founder of Hi Wildflower Botanica, a handcrafted natural perfume and skincare line. A graduate of Vassar College and Brooklyn College’s MFA program, she lives in Brooklyn.
About the book: When Ella Anwar was three year old, her parents, Rezwan and Laila, were murdered. Ever since their death, Ella has seen fantastical visions: luminescent colors and shapes, scintillating butterflies, even miniature people. Shy, a bit awkward, and “rough as a prehistoric man” (p. 24), Ella doesn’t quite seem to fit in anywhere – not even with her adoptive parents, her aunt Hashi and uncle Anwar Saleem, or their gorgeous and outspoken daughter, Charu. Ella seeks refuge in the world of plants, throwing herself into the maintenance of Anwar’s garden in Brooklyn. Ella also doesn’t know what to make of her crush on her beautiful cousin, whose free spirit and overt sexuality Ella finds simultaneously alluring and irritating. But when Ella returns home from her sophomore year at Cornell, she finds that Charu has a secret guest stashed away in Ella’s old bedroom.
To Ella, her cousin’s best friend Maya is fascinating, a study in contradictions. She seems to be a devout Muslim, wearing a hijab and observing formal prayer, yet she will readily eat a ham sandwich and drink at a party. As Ella and Maya get closer, she learns that Maya is hiding at the Saleem household to escape her abusive father, who is well regarded in their Brooklyn neighborhood as an Islamic cleric. Over the course of the summer, Ella, Charu, and Maya forge a bond, riding their bikes around New York and exploring the city as they also explore their sexualities and identities.
Meanwhile, Uncle Anwar is having an adventurous summer of his own. He is the owner of a botanical apothecary, creating his own soaps, shampoos, salves, and other products, and like Ella, he reveres plants and their healing properties (especially marijuana). His relationship with Hashi is strained, and as their intimacy issues become more and more apparent, he finds himself fantasizing about his upstairs tenant, Ramona.
Anwar is haunted by visions of his beloved friend Rezwan and memories of their time as guerilla soldiers during the Bangladesh Liberation War, and he fears his overbearing and chauvinistic brother Aman, who comes to stay at the Saleem household. When the Saleem family is threatened by outside forces as well as inescapable secrets within the house, Anwar and Hashi take their children on a trip to their motherland—a trip that change the course of the girls’ lives forever.
As richly layered and lovingly crafted as a well-manicured garden or a bespoke perfume, Bright Lines introduces readers to a unique family that must learn to grow together and coexist even as they each develop into something beautiful on their own. Tanwi Nandini Islam’s stunning debut novel travels from the bustling storefronts of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to the teeming street markets of Dhaka in Bangladesh, and is an essential new coming-of-age story of love and self-discovery.
Paperback, 304 pages
Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8 inch
Weight: 12.6 oz
Publisher: Penguin Books
Date: August 11th, 2015
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