A SMALL FORTUNE
By Rosie Dastgir (Riverhead Books, 376 pages, $25.95)
In her debut novel, Rosie Dastgir weaves a vivid and delightful saga about an extended family of Pakistani immigrants -- the hapless patriarch, Harris, whose life is spiraling out of control; his impoverished relatives back home who need his help; his conniving cousins down the street, who don't (but who get it); his Westernized daughter, who rebels against her father's expectations, and his baffled nephew, who cannot find his footing in England and is drawn into a dangerous web spun by a militant Islamist imam. The plot revolves around a sum of money -- a settlement from Harris' former wife, which he impulsively gives away to those who need it the least. It's a wonderful story, set in an England that you might recognize only peripherally. The familiar landmarks are there, and the place names, but the characters are people who might be hidden from the average tourist. "A Small Fortune" is populated entirely by immigrants -- not just Pakistanis, but Russians and Poles and other Eastern Europeans who run shops and sell goods and who might not necessarily want to assimilate, but who do want to succeed. This book is funny, poignant, true and sad, and I was enthralled.
SENIOR EDITOR FOR BOOKS
BLOOD FEUD: THE HATFIELDS AND THE MCCOYS: THE EPIC STORY OF MURDER AND VENGEANCE
By Lisa Alther (Lyons Press, 286 pages, $24.95)
The Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky, history's most famous feuding families, come to lurid life (and usually die unnatural deaths) in this well researched and finely written history. Lisa Alther, a Tennessee native who found some of her own relatives by marriage in the McCoy family tree, reviews the many myths and erroneous histories about the feud, which began in 1865 and ended early in the next century. Then she presents what is known for sure about the feud, and even stripped of colorful inaccuracies, it's wonderful, awful stuff, rife with ambushes, horrific murders of men, women and children, revenge and betrayal, and void of anything resembling justice or mercy. But Alther goes beyond the bloody facts, showing how closely the feud was related to the Civil War and weaving in other context that shows how utterly American the feud was, and how it reverberates yet today, especially in Appalachia. All good, that, but the best part is tracking the bloodstained characters through their astounding, outrageous lives. Lots of photographs spice things up even more.
NIGHT METRO EDITOR