Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Freebie: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi, Gravity by Elizabeth Rosner, and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

Congratulations to Melissa Seng and Amber Kalbes, winners of last week's Friday Freebie: Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican and The Human Body by Paolo Giordano.

This week's giveaway is a trio of books which will bring a little international flavor to your shelves: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi, Gravity by Elizabeth Rosner, and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante.  I have two copies of each book to give away to two lucky readers.  Scroll down for more information about the books.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a luminous and unforgettable tale of two women, destiny, and identity in Afghanistan.  Kabul, 2007: The Taliban rules the streets.  With a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can rarely leave the house or attend school.  Their only hope lies in the ancient Afghan custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a son until she is of marriageable age.  As a boy, she has the kind of freedom that was previously unimaginable... freedom that will transform her forever.  But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom.  A century earlier, her great-great-grandmother Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life in the same way--the change took her on a journey from the deprivation of life in a rural village to the opulence of a king's palace in the bustling metropolis of Kabul.  Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell interweaves the stories of these two remarkable women who are separated by a century but share the same courage and dreams.  What will happen once Rahima is old enough to marry?  How long can Shekiba pass as a man?  And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

Gravity is a full-length poetry collection that can be read as an autobiographical companion to Elizabeth Rosner’s novels, The Speed of Light, Blue Nude and Electric City.  Composed over a period of some twenty years, Gravity is Rosner’s profoundly searching, blazingly honest account of her own experience as the daughter of Holocaust survivors.  In these direct and revealing pages, Rosner traces the earliest remembered resonances of her parents’ past and her own dawning awareness of the war history that colored her family home during her youth in Schenectady, New York.  She recounts her false starts in raising the subject with her father (a survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp), his piecemeal revelations, and their eventual travels together to the sites of the nightmare in Germany.  And she evokes, courageously and heart-wrenchingly, her own search for identity against the gravitational pull of her parents’ experience and the traditional upbringing they’ve given her.  This extraordinarily powerful book reminds us that three-quarters of a century is a blink of an eye, that history happens at home, and that the past is something we all embody, knowingly or not.

Since the publication of My Brilliant Friend, the first of the Neapolitan novels, Elena Ferrante's fame as one of our most compelling, insightful, and stylish contemporary authors has grown enormously.  She has gained admirers among authors--Jhumpa Lahiri, Elizabeth Strout, Claire Messud, to name a few--and critics--James Wood, John Freeman, Eugenia Williamson, for example.  But her most resounding success has undoubtedly been with readers, who have discovered in Ferrante a writer who speaks with great power and beauty of the mysteries of belonging, human relationships, love, family, and friendship.  In Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women.  Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her husband and the comforts her marriage brought and now works as a common laborer.  Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons.  Both women have attempted are pushing against the walls of a prison that would have seen them living a life of misery, ignorance and submission.  They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies.  Yet they are still very much bound to each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.

If you’d like a chance at winning a copy of all three books, simply email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Oct. 23, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on Oct. 24.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.

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