Ohhh, it's a busy week here at Chez Books and Cooks. Did you know my daughter is a performance artist? It's true. She's performing 5 times this week complete with hair, makeup, and costume in front of hundreds of people. That makes me chauffeur extraordinaire leaving me with little free time.
Back to the books. Once Amanda Craig's Hearts and Minds was longlisted for the Orange Prize I started seeing it around. And around. I'd read a couple of Craig's books in the past and remembered them as likable but not especially memorable. I thought this might be her Big Book, so I ordered it and began reading it approximately 3 minutes after it arrived. It's really something.
Hearts and Minds is a book about immigration in present day London. Craig focuses on 5 characters whose lives intertwine in various ways. British Born Polly is a human rights lawyer. Job is a taxi driver from Zimbabwe. Anna has arrived from the Ukraine to work as a chambermaid. Katie is an American, living on the cheap and working for a magazine. Ian is a teacher from South Africa, trying to figure out if this life is better than the one he left. Some of these people are legal, others are not. Some are being exploited and live in fear. They are all trying to make a better life for themselves yet the life they are living is not what any of them expected.
Hearts and Minds is not a happy book, in fact it's quite a heartbreaker, but it tells a very real story. While this book is set in London and feels very British, this story is taking place all over the world. These same characters could be in New York, Los Angeles, or even the Twin Cities. Craig tells her story boldly, sympathetically. She includes a body and a murder, thought this is not a murder mystery. She cleverly ends each chapter with a zinger, turning what could have been an ordinary book into a page turner. I thought it was excellent. Sadly, it didn't make the Orange shortlist and who knows if it will ever be published on this side of the pond. Either way, I encourage you to seek it out.