I finished two books fairly quickly recently – Sirens of Memory and Born Behind Bars.

Sirens of Memory

At one point while reading Puja Guha’s Sirens of Memory I actually questioned myself as to why I was doing it – each night (two) I had terrible nightmares and the entire idea of it, while sadly realistic, was exceptionally upsetting.

So why did I keep reading it – because it was obviously great.

Mariam is pregnant and fleeing an abusive marriage just as Iraq invades Kuwait. She leaves her husband, Tareq, for dead, “crosses the border and is evacuated with the help of Raj, who she meets at a refugee camp and insists she assume the identity of his dead wife so she can be issued Indian papers.”

Twenty-five years later, Miriam is still living under the assumed name, but in an attempt to move forward, she attends a commemorative event at the Kuwaiti embassy. Tareq, who is alive, finds out his wife is alive and begins planning his revenge.

The book flips between past and present as you learn more about what happened to Miriam at the hands of her husband and how she escapes Kuwait and her life in the U.S. Mariam is a great character as are a number of secondary characters. Tareq is a psychopath. I know people like him exist, which makes what Miriam goes through all the more terrifying.

The book was a fast read and enjoyable in that it was a book that made me feel – I was horrified for Miriam and anxious for her and her family. I was scared for them, and the secondary characters and I was angry, too.

“The confrontation that follows forces Mariam to confront her past as a victim and decide who she really is once and for all.”

Sirens of Memory is PGC Books and retails for $25.50.

Born Behind Bars

I Googled it: Are children in India really in jail with their mothers? Apparently this truly is a thing, which makes this book by Padma Venkatraman incredibly sad. What is even more heartbreaking is that in Born Behind Bars, main character Kabir is forced out of the prison system when he is too old. At nine years old, Kabir is released to fend for himself on the streets of Chennai, where people judge him based on his caste. In this book, it’s a new warden who decides Kabir is too old to stay with his mother and his teacher scrambles to each him all he needs to know in order to survive on the streets.

“Fortunately, Rani, another street kid, takes him under her wing and the two find job in the absurdities of life and revel in their independence.”

The entire situation makes my heart hurt. I can’t even imagine what these women and these children go through, and how this is even a thing – caste included.

In this book, Kabir decides to find his father, who stopped writing his mother after a time, and does everything he can to fight for justice.

“He’s determined to show the world that he – and his mom – deserve to be in it.”

Born Behind Bars had great characters, including the main characters; the women who serve time with Kabir’s mother; and those the children meet along the journey. In addition to learning about this horrible situation, the book also talks about the religion and the prejudice Roma people face.

Born Behind Bars is a middle grade book that releases in September from Nancy Paulsen Books and Penguin Kids and retails for $22.99.

Sirens of Memory and Born Behind Bars are from PGC Books and
Penguin Random House Canada for an honest review. The opinions are my own.