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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Passing by Nella Larsen | Thoughts

Published: 1929   ||   Format: ebook   ||   Location: US

One line summary: Two old friends/acquaintances reconnect years later, but there's a lot at stake this time especially with one friend passing as white and several relationships forming or dying.

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The trouble with Clare was, not only that she wanted to have her cake and eat it too, but that she wanted to nibble at the cakes of other folk as well.


Irene Redfield and Clare Bellew are two light-skinned Black women living diametrically opposite lives with their families. On the one hand, Irene is living comfortably in the neighborhood of Harlem as a black woman, while Clare is passing as white and living with a white husband, who (ironically) detests black people. When their paths cross one day, there is a strange magnetic pull that both brings them together and keeps them apart.

Passing is one of those books where much doesn't seem to happen, and yet much does happen by the time the last page is turned. I first heard about it last year on several blogs and later my interest was piqued when Netflix announced the movie. In addition, several mentioned a twist/shock/out of character ending and that was all I needed to go find the book and read it. I may not read a lot of thrillers but I do love books with twist endings. 

A lot of the book is building character and showing gradual changes in both women. I will admit to rushing through the book a few times. But I will not advise others to do that. So much of that twist ending relies on seeing how the story shifts page by page. Even days after reading the book, I was in awe of Nella Larsen's storytelling ability. This is a book that is written to reward rereads. There are all these clues and metaphors that will make more sense during a reread. 

Irene is a very rigid person who believes in keeping appearances and doing things the right way. Clare is her opposite in that she is very impulsive, very energetic, and very clingy. I identified more with Irene than with Clare - both in personality and actions. Plus of course, we are more in Irene's head than in Clare's. Through much of the book, I felt vibes of Behind Her Eyes (and if you didn't watch Behind Her Eyes yet, let me explain just how many times I sat in fear at what will come next, just as I used to as a kid watching horror movies I wasn't supposed to be watching). Passing isn't a horror book at all, and yet there is that sense of dread through much of the book. You know something will happen, but you can't quite tell what. 

Larsen does a great job showing how risky it was for Black people to pass as white, and also how many Black people still did it. Reading this book in 2021, almost a century later, I felt the sadness of how not much has changed. Black people may outwardly have the same rights as everyone else, but under the hood, we have all been fighting the same problem for centuries. 

I watched the movie right after I finished the book - something I don't do often because I almost never enjoy the movie. I noticed how close the story and dialogue were to the book - this is a huge treat as a reader. I certainly enjoyed the movie - I think it showed certain things that the book left implied and that helped inform the story more. 

What's your favorite book about friends who are not really friends?