Today I am happy to present a little break in the Hot Sinatra road to release day by offering a look at the amazing work of one of my compeers. Emlyn Chand is a fine writer, both of the Farsighted YA series and the Bird Brain children’s books that are currently a favorite around the Casa Di Howerton. Today we’re going to look at her debut release, what some call a piece of “Lady Fiction”, and what I call a hell of a first novel and an irrefutable piece of actual literature. Read on for my entry in her Torn Together Tour and, when you get to the end, be sure to stay for the excerpt and enter the contest.
“Torn” and “together” are the perfect descriptors for Emlyn Chand’s book Torn Together. This is a coming-of-age tale, a familial struggle, a star-crossed romance, a semi-autobiographical collection of lessons learned, a little bit of travelogue, fish-out-of-water, and a reconciling with Death. All of these things come together in Chand’s novel, to great emotional effect.
Our heroine, Daly (pronounced like “tally”) is lost, riding the violent waves of the maudlin seas of post-pubescence. Her father died when she was young, and she and her mother have drifted as far away from each other as they can get, while still living an awkward existence of momentary conflicts under the same roof. Daly has just been betrayed by a boyfriend, lost her will to create and is drowning in the perceived disappointment of her mother, when she meets a new dude in town, who happens to be tall, handsome and Indian.
Daly’s mother, Laine, on the other hand, lives her life locked away, retreating into her favorite books (a nice use of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, rather than the requisite Bronte or Austen standbys). Laine is awakened from her self-imposed exile by an exuberant young pregnant woman she has taken under her wing as part of her career in social work. Both Daly and Laine are torn by their grief — stunted and self-abused – - and both women find themselves on a voyage of revival and reawakening, both accompanied by something of a “spirit guide” in the flesh.
This is a book of emotions, real and imagined slights, malevolent and accidental woundings, romance, passion and grief. It is a tremendous thing for so young a writer to tackle and, while it doesn’t always hit dead-center, it is filled with exceptional moments of heartwarming truth and heartbreaking sadness. The characters are deep, flawed and, above all, real. I found myself hoping for both women to find happiness, contentment and peace by the end of the book.
There are a preponderance of slight, ham-fisted and one-dimensional portrayals of these kind of mother-daughter relationships out there. There are an endless supply of watery romances in exotic locales and shallow characters in unbelievable setups. This book is so much more than that, and it deserves so much more attention and respect. Not everything ends happily, but such is life. Emlyn Chand realizes this and plays it true, and truth is what makes art.
Pick it up. Read it. Hold it close and take hold of what it offers. You will not be sorry.
Torn Together: An Excerpt
Daly ducked her head and hopped into the auto-rickshaw. She barely had time to take in the display of Hindu religious icons and small, flashing, Christmas-like lights, which covered every available inch of the driver’s dashboard, before the vehicle roared to life. They seemed to go from zero to sixty in ten seconds flat, and the too-quick acceleration somehow proved to be the least daunting feature of Daly’s first ride into New Delhi traffic.
A steady stream of dust and smog clung to the air like steam, and entered the auto from the open sides. Daly couldn’t stop coughing. That’s the last time I ever complain about Oxford.
“Oh-ho,” her companion tisked, and removed the beautiful length of fabric hanging from her shoulders, which she offered to Daly for use as a breathing filter.
Once clean-ish air flowed through her lungs again, Daly shifted her focus to not falling out the side of the vehicle as they darted in and out of traffic. One second, she was thrust toward the open street, and the next her body jammed into Mishti as the auto narrowly missed rear-ending another vehicle. Through it all, the driver carried on, zigzagging past an alarming variety of travelers—cars, buses, bicycles, scooters, pedestrians, stray dogs, and haughty, slow-moving cows.
“What’s the point of having the driving lanes if people drive wherever they want?” Daly asked as the vehicle darted forward erratically, straddling the center line of the highway.
Mishti shook her head, indicating she hadn’t heard the question.
Daly repeated it a little louder.
Mishti cupped her hand around her ear and flourished her hand near her throat.
This time Daly raised her voice to a shout, but still the loud chorus of honks coming from seemingly every vehicle on the crowded street drowned out her voice. Daly tried one more time.
Mishti finally heard. She laughed and shouted back, “What fun would that be? It would take so long to reach anywhere if we stayed between the lines. Besides, I think they just painted those to impress Westerners, so India will look like a modern country. You’re impressed, isn’t it?”
Isn’t what? Daly simpered uncomfortably; Indian slang was confusing. Mishti seemed to be asking a question, and Daly wanted to answer. However, the chances of her being heard were slim—unless she wanted to lose her voice within thirty minutes of arriving in this country. Her stomach churned and bile climbed up her throat. She forced it back down by swallowing hard and rapidly patting her chest. Who could get used to this?
Mishti leaned over and examined Daly with wide eyes. “Arey, you are not well! When we reach, Mummy will make a tasty cha for you. You will be much better.”
Daly nodded and focused on the road, desperately attempting to reduce her motion sickness. One hand held the silk dupatta securely over her mouth and nose; she extended the other behind Mishti in a desperate attempt to gain stability. Luckily, her nausea did lessen as the vehicle sputtered in the thick city traffic.
Unluckily, Daly somehow captured the attention of an orphaned street girl, who couldn’t have been much older than five. The little girl waddled over to them, propping up a naked baby on her nonexistent hip. She held out her free hand and jabbed it into Daly’s side. “Please, didi. Rupia dengi.” The whiteness of her eyes glistened from the swirl of dark—dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin.
Although Daly understood just one of the words in the young beggar’s plea, she understood the child needed money. Reaching into her pocket and pulling out a twenty dollar bill, she hoped the little girl would be able to find some means of getting the currency converted.
The urchin’s eyes grew wide with excitement. Twenty American dollars translated to roughly nine hundred Rupees—a small fortune. Rather than accept the charity gracefully, the girl began to climb into the auto-rickshaw and grope ravenously at Daly’s pocket.
“Hut!” Mishti spat in disgust, reaching across Daly to push the child out of the vehicle as the vehicle crept forward once more.
The little girl ran alongside the auto, until the added weight of the infant became too much of a hindrance and she had to stop.
Daly was so shocked that she forgot to keep her mouth closed, and broke out in another fit of coughs.
Mishti was none too happy with her. “Dolly, you cannot do that. If you give them anything, they will only demand more. Leave it, yaar.”
Mishti’s callous attitude toward the poor children-in-need amazed Daly, as did the manner in which the child had reacted to her aid. She would listen to Mishti’s advice for now, but later, she’d ask Kashi what to do going forward. The thought of the poor little girl made her queasy again.
She was beyond relieved when they finally reached the three-bedroom apartment shared by Mishti, her parents, and Chai-ji. She and Mishti were the first to arrive, so they sat outside in the public courtyard to wait. Daly scanned the grounds and building—old and dusty but otherwise well maintained. Dirt was everywhere, not a green thing in sight.
About the Book – About the Author – Prizes!!!
About the book: Life, love, and an unforgettable trip to India–readers call “Torn Together” an emotional roller coaster ride. What’s all the fuss about? Grab your mother, daughter, sister, or closest friend, and get reading. Make sure to keep a box of Kleenex handy! Get Torn Together through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo Books.
About the author: Emlyn Chand emerged from the womb with a fountain pen clutched in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm Novel Publicity. Best known for her Young Adult novels, she is also developing a small, but devoted, following to her children’s book series and is beginning to dabble in other genres as well. Emlyn enjoys connecting with readers and is available via almost every social media site in existence. Visit EmlynChand.com for more info. Don’t forget to say “hi” to her sun conure Ducky! Connect with Emlyn on her website, Facebook, GoodReads, or Twitter.
About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Torn Together! Here’s what you need to do…
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest
- Leave a comment on my blog.
That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found here. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Torn Together tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway