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Thoughts on “The Sweetness of Tears” by Nafisa Haji

I received The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.

About the Book:

The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji (cover)Jo March has grown up planning a summer camp with her parents and brother, watching her Evangelical preacher uncle on TV, and anxiously waiting for her grandmother to stop home between mission trips. Jo has never wavered on her path, always sure of herself and her place in the world.

Then, in high school, Jo encounters Gregor Mendel and his genetics experiments. Try as she might, she cannot make a Punnett square explain how her blue-eyed parents could have produced brown-eyed twins. Instead, she realizes there is a vast piece of her heritage that has remained hidden her whole life.

When Jo asks her mother to explain, her mother obliges. The truth changes Jo’s life, pulling her onto a path she never expected to tread, forcing her to confront and reconcile the hitherto unknown aspects of who she is and who she wants to be.

My Thoughts:

The Sweetness of Tears was a lovely book. It’s the sort of novel that’s less about gripping plots and more about the back story. The present is there, but as Jo digs into her past, the stories of the people she talks to are unraveled before the reader before being woven inseparably together into one larger tale. The characters share easily with strangers, their stories pouring forth without hesitation and in rich detail.

The novel is told from several perspectives, but the narrators’ voices are indistinguishable from one another. The Sweetness of Tears seemed to me to be much more about the story than about how it was told. I noticed the lack of distinct voices occasionally, finding myself confused about who the “I” in a narrative referred to. I would have liked a little more definition, but it was clear the emphasis rested on the events and relationships, so I wasn’t overly bothered.

The Sweetness of Tears confronts a lot of hefty topics well, which I will not get into because some may consider them spoilers. It also contains many very beautiful passages and sentiments, lovely revelations worth pondering. It is about forgiveness and redemption, faith and acceptance, being able to say “I don’t know” and then learning. It’s about how much grey there is in the world, how little black and white, us and them. It is about discovering who you are and moving forward as that person. By the time I finished, I felt like I’d lived the whole story myself.

Those are my thoughts. Check out The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji on Goodreads or LibraryThing, or read other bloggers’ reviews:

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  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    This book sounds as though it was much more of a plot driven book than a character study, and sometimes I enjoy that. I am glad to hear that this one engrossed you and I think I am going to have to check it out sometime. Fantastic review!

    • Erin

      It is, but a large chunk of the plot driving the story is in the past, if that makes sense. Like, something will happen in the present to bring two characters together, and then one will spend many pages telling the other about his or her life, until you get a good backdrop against which the current story is happening. I haven’t read anything quite like it for a long time.

  • http://homeofaimala.blogspot.com/ Amy

    Erin I’m reading this book now. I actually started it and then had to take a break to read some review books and I’ve just gone back to it! I feel like I’m always just about to read a book you’ve recently finished!
    Anyway, although I’m not finished with it, I already feel the same way about the various narrator voices. They’re not all that indistinguishable and I have to continuously remind myself of whose story I’m currently reading. I find I get easily confused about who belongs where in the heirarchy of families in this book – do you know what I mean?!

    That said, I like the story and feel I’m learning more about the culture of India and the different spiritual/religious aspects.

    Your review makes me anxious to finish the book and learn what happens to Jo! Thank you :o)

    • Erin

      I hope you like this one, Amy! Aside from struggling a bit to know who was talking when, I thought it was rather nice. But yes, I definitely know what you mean about not knowing where everyone fit! A narrator would refer to “my mother” and I’d have to recall who that would be. I especially had trouble within families, like how “mom” to Jo meant Angela, but “mom” to Angela meant Faith. Oh well. I was very impressed by how much culture and religious explanation the author got into the book!

  • http://theeclecticreader.wordpress.com/ carolinareads

    Sounds fun. Just a question, given the main character name is there any reference to Little Women?

    • http://www.ardentreader.wordpress.com Christina

      I was just about to ask the same question…

      • Erin

        It is, yes. Jo’s mother’s favorite book is Little Women, so when she happened to marry a man whose last name was March, of course she named her daughter Jo. Pilgrim’s Progress figures in the story, too.

  • http://stacybuckeye.wordpress.com/ stacybuckeye

    Wow. This sounds incredible. Adding it to my wish list.

    • Erin

      I hope you end up enjoying it! I did.