Highlights In The Charts
The No-Show by Beth O’Leary
Review by Arabella Petts
14 February. Three women, one missing man. Siobhan’s hoping that her breakfast date with Joseph means they’re taking the next step. Miranda thinks that a Valentine’s lunch with Carter means things are getting serious. Joseph Carter agreed to be Jane’s fake boyfriend at a party tonight. All three of them are getting sick of waiting for him to show up.
Joseph Carter, the aforementioned “no-show,” leaves all three women waiting on Valentine’s Day and none of them know why. Different to her other novels but still written with a Beth O’Leary flair, The No-Show is an original take on the romance genre. This is a genuinely unexpected and heartwarming story about the ways that love can find us, with an extraordinary plot twist that will leave you guessing until the end.
I’m hesitant to say much more about the plot so as not to spoil anything but there is more to this story than meets the eye.
The No-Show is a slow burn that will get you hooked as each relationship unfolds and the characters’ stories fall into place. The plot is truly meticulous and unlike anything I’ve ever read before – this may just have turned me into a romance reader. The way the story is so multi-layered is brilliant and it’s set up for great character development throughout the book; be prepared to feel every emotion possible whilst reading this and to have your heart captured by one – Siobhan is my personal favourite!
The best way to read this is without expectation, but if you like rom coms with a bit of drama, get ready for this to be your favourite read of the season!
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
Review by Jenna Tomlinson
Garcia's debut novel, Of Women and Salt, spans five generations of women and four separate countries. The lives of the nine Latina women she documents in the novel are linked not only by difficulty and abuse, but a continual strive for something better, through education, migration and hope.
It's a short novel, just over 200 pages but Garcia does not waste any of them. Beginning with two family trees showing only the first names of the women in them (a testament to the women being known for themselves and not the men they were tied to) the narrative shifts to Miami in 2018 and readers are given a glimpse of a desperate Carmen pleading with her daughter Jeanette to live; to overcome her addictions and lamenting on the secrets the two women hold.
From here we're taken to Cuba, in the midst of a civil war and the birthplace of Jeanette's great-great-grandmother Maria-Isabel: the only female worker at a cigar rolling factory who is also learning to read. With an eagerness to prove her worth, she works for lower pay amidst the maltreatment. Despite her initial concerns for her appearance and reputation, Maria-Isabel eventually marries the lector of the factory, Antonio, but their marriage culminates in both birth and loss.
Garcia's background as a poet shines here, with the imagery in Maria-Isabel's initial chapter rich with visions of rural Cuba and the misogynistic cigar factory. Not all the imagery is positive, with the details of the looming civil war depicted in heart wrenching detail, but Garcia writes with such a rich flair that you feel as if you are there.
We also meet Jeanette's neighbour Gloria, an El Salvador born woman who has migrated to Florida to provide a better life for her daughter Ana but is detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2014. We are given snippets of Gloria's life as Jeanette sees it from her window – Gloria leaving for work, Ana returning home from a babysitter who doesn't leave the car. It is therefore heartbreaking when officials arrive at Gloria's house, the reader having a sense of dramatic irony at the fact Ana is not yet home.
Garcia tackles political topics with ease. Dealing with issues such as racism, being “white passing,” the abuse of those interned at detention centres, the ever-changing domestic immigration policies within the U.S. and how these are used as voting fodder. There are no idealised postcard images of the countries and states depicted here. There are no classic cars lining the streets of Cuba, no trips to Disney World for Ana in Florida. There are no uplifting migrant stories and no martyrs to political correctness. Instead, Garcia shows grit and survival, even within the family model.
I devoured this book in one sitting and I think it's a testament to Garcia that I was surprised it is her debut novel. I can't wait to read more from her.