Brass by Xhenet Aliu
A Novel

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Her characters are nuanced and real, capable of taking risks, making mistakes, and growing in unexpected ways. Aliu’s writing is polished and precise, bringing her characters glowingly to life.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

“A fierce, big-hearted, unflinching debut”* novel about mothers and daughters, haves and have-nots, and the stark realities behind the American Dream

*Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when she learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where Bashkim’s heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind.

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she’s stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie—a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

Told in equally gripping parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story.

Praise for Brass

“Lustrous . . . a tale alive with humor and gumption, of the knotty, needy bond between a mother and daughter . . . [Brass] marks the arrival of a writer whose work will stand the test of time.”—O: The Oprah Magazine

“An exceptional debut novel, one that plumbs the notion of the American Dream while escaping the clichés that pursuit almost always brings with it . . . [Xhenet] Aliu delivers a living, breathing portrait of places left behind.”—The Boston Globe

“The writing blazes on the page. . . . So much about the book is also extraordinarily timely, especially when it focuses on class and culture, and what they really mean.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Aliu is witty and unsparing in her depiction of the town and its inhabitants, illustrating the granular realities of the struggle for class mobility.”—The New Yorker
 

About Xhenet Aliu

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Published January 23, 2018 by Random House. 304 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Brass
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Oct 31 2017

Her characters are nuanced and real, capable of taking risks, making mistakes, and growing in unexpected ways. Aliu’s writing is polished and precise, bringing her characters glowingly to life.

Read Full Review of Brass: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Julie Buntin on Mar 07 2018

I left this book with the sure sense that the characters were alive beyond its pages, though I wouldn’t dare try to guess what they are up to — Elsie and Lulu are too real for that.

Read Full Review of Brass: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Reader Rating for Brass
87%

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