Synopsis from Goodreads.
Meena and River have a lot in common: fathers forced to work away from home to make ends meet, grandmothers who mean the world to them, and faithful dogs. But Meena is an Indian immigrant girl living in New York City’s Chinatown, while River is a Kentucky coal miner’s son. As Meena’s family studies for citizenship exams and River’s town faces devastating mountaintop removal, this unlikely pair become pen pals, sharing thoughts and, as their camaraderie deepens, discovering common ground in their disparate experiences. With honesty and humor, Meena and River bridge the miles between them, creating a friendship that inspires bravery and defeats cultural misconceptions. Narrated in two voices, each voice distinctly articulated by a separate gifted author, this chronicle of two lives powerfully conveys the great value of being and having a friend and the joys of opening our lives to others who live beneath the same sun.
Pre-Review Thoughts: I have such a love/hate relationship with Netgalley. I love it because it’s an invaluable way for me, as a British blogger, to get access to books that aren’t published over here for months or, in some instances, at all. I hate it because it always seems that when a new book comes out it’s a fight to the death to get accepted for the popular, well publicised titles. But what I love most about Netgalley is finding books such as this one that I would probably never have found otherwise and absolutely adoring them.
Stuffed full of pictures, poems and drawings (which unfortunately weren’t shown in the ARC but will be in the hardback copy I’ll undoubtedly buy), this book tells a simple story. It’s not a particularly original one but it’s a beautiful one all the same.
With Meena and River, Ms Vaswani and Mr House have created two of the most authentic children’s voices I have read. Their letters are full of their worries, their pain, their dreams but they are also full of rich humour that had made laughing and shattering my early nights.
I know I always rabbit on about how much better most middle grade books are at dealing with serious issues honestly than most YA books but I’m just going to rabbit on a little bit more. Because Same Sun Here was no exception.
The environment, tolerance, different cultures, family and politics (this book is set in 2008 around Obama’s inauguration) are but a few topics that are covered in great deal within the letters between Meena and River. There is such a sweet and true message hidden within these pages but there’s a difference between talking about an issue and clobbering you over the head with it.
Fortunately, both Vaswani and House are well aware of this.
This book is, in effect, a love letter to communication.
I don’t know whether I connected with this book because, like Meena and River, my friendship circle is spread across not only the UK, but also across the world. Because of things like e-mail and Skype and Facebook, I can connect with someone on the opposite side of the world and send out separate e-mails to someone in Australia, someone in America and someone in Kent in the time it takes me to find a biro that works.
Sure, e-mails make it possible to have a friendship that isn’t reliant on the Royal Mail, but there truly is nothing like getting a real letter is there?
“The reason I’m not on the e-mail list is because I thought it’d be cooler to write letters to somebody, since I can write e-mails to anybody.”
I love the act of writing a handwritten letter because you can’t delete bits or change your mind before you send it. Well, I mean, you can use Tippex and stuff (do people still use Tippex for anything as opposed to writing their crushes names on their pencil cases?!) but once it’s on the paper it’s out in the world.
Maybe it’s just me but I feel like there is something much more honest in hand-writing a letter.
This isn’t that much of a spoiler but if you don’t want to know anything about the plot just skip the next paragraph.
Towards the end of the book Meena and River decide to meet in New York and I genuinely felt sad because I thought that now they’ve met, they’d never send letters to each other again.
But I, ever the optimist, would like to believe that they did and they sent each other long, scrawled letters to each other with about how much fun they had when they met up.
I know I went a bit off topic up there, but this book has inspired to make the effort to write more letters to all my kindred spirits scattered across the globe.
On real writing paper.
And maybe written in fountain pen.
[Ha…. This was supposed to be a “quick” review. Whoops]
People who want to read a book about contemporary issues. People who wished they had a pen pal when they were in school. People who wish they could look out of their window and see mountains. People who will never get tired of their grandma’s stories. People who like to scream at the top of their lungs at passing trains. People who believe that kindred spirits are telepathic. People who can believe that S.E Hinton is a girl and that she wrote a book because girls can do anything. People who wish Kentucky was a shape better suited to cutting it out of toast. People who will join me in my pledge to write more letters.
Some more quotes because I couldn’t narrow them down:
“Since reading this book, everyone I pass on the street seems full of stories and dreams and a secret sadness.” (On “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by the by)
“It seems like there are so many homesick people in the world. It seems like so many of us live far away from where we were born.”
“They were all surprised that we are best friends but we haven’t ever met. Ms. Beldsoe said that’s what happens when you find a ‘kindred spirit’.”
I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.