Review of Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

By Medha Murti

Inside Out and Back Again is a moving and adventurous story about Ha’, a Vietnamese girl living in the time of the Vietnam war. InsideOutLike many others, she and her family flee their home and everything they know, after their land is deemed unsafe. Ha’ has to contend with three brothers who she realizes, are not that bad after all. In her own way, Ha’ adjusts to her new surroundings after being sponsored and taken to Alabama by a family. She meets a lot of people who hate her, some who help her and others who befriend her. Thrown into a new world of English, she cannot express herself and everything, to her, is a muddle.

Nostalgia is a competing force, and she misses her old life, especially the food and her little papaya tree. Her inability to speak English along with some other contributing factors sets her unfavorably apart from the majority of the others in her class. She becomes a wonderful target for bullies but fights them back in time. In this gripping book, the story is narrated so realistically that you find yourself feeling and experiencing everything Ha’ does. A very good story, interesting, but moving in an unwavering line with no sharp twists or turns. Open the first page and plunge in to the world of a homesick girl and her adventures and experiences.

Overall Rating4stars

Review of Almira and the Backward Family by Eugenio Negro

This is a novella that spins a dark tale set during the California gold rush. The story revolves around Almira, a confused nine-year old girl and her family. She lives with her mother, a woman trying to tide through tough times ; Almiraher stepfather, a gold prospector down on the side of luck and hounded by outlaws ; and two half brothers. The characters are woven with deliberate veracity and end up like contrasting brush-strokes on a captivating work of art.  The town of Mosquito is pictured as a bleak town with a sheriff trying his best to uphold the law.

Almira comes to believe that her stepfather killed her real father and doesn’t love her or her mother. Even as this belief begins to overwhelm the little girl, Thaddeus, the stepfather is working against odds to protect his family from an extortionist gang. In the middle of this slowly stewing broth, there is a sudden and mysterious supernatural occurrence, which is a bit disjointed from the rest of the story. As the dislike for her stepfather crosses a threshold in Almira, she plots and carries out a childish act of revenge that leads to tragic consequences. The author’s cold-as-steel narration coupled with an ominous depiction of the old west, makes for an interesting read.

Who should read: Short enough for anyone to read, but will appeal to those who enjoy dark and off-the-beaten-track stories

What it is not: While the protagonist is a child, the story is no child’s play

Overall rating: threeandhalfstars

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