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