Sheryl Sorrentino

The Book of Unknown Americans

March 24, 2018
The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5. The Book of Unknown Americans is a hidden gem that I happened to pick up (as an audio book) before a long drive. It is a moving and touching story about the budding romance between Maribel Rivera, who suffered brain damage in Mexico following an accident, and Mayor Toro, a shy teenage boy who is able to see through Maribel's limitations, and even her physical allure, to the beautiful soul within. The story is told against the backdrop of a group of immigrants living in an apartment building in Delaware. The central characters are the Riveras—Arturo, Alma and Maribel—who have recently immigrated from Mexico, and the more "established" Toros—Mayor and his parents, Cecilia and Rafael—who immigrated from Panama years earlier to escape that country's violence.

The Book of Unknown Americans has a valuable place in our current national debate over immigration. At its core, it shows that immigrants—legal and illegal both—are simply human beings with human stories and problems and challenges; people who crave—and deserve—a chance at a better life and should not be condemned for pursuing better circumstances; and, for all that they might gain, immigrants pay a high price for uprooting their lives and attempting to set down roots in the U.S.

The Riveras' story is gripping and heartbreaking. Alma is the voice of this family, and she tells her tale with uncensored emotion. I was pleasantly startled by the appearance, for the first time, of Arturo in the very last chapter, when for whatever reason, we do not hear from him directly before that. Through his wife's eyes, we learn he is a good man and is an endearing character (whereas Cecilia's husband, Rafael, is not) despite the strains in their marriage and his human frailties. Nevertheless, introducing Arturo's voice at that late stage, given what had happened to him previously, was a bold if confusing creative move.

I would give this book five stars but for the extraneous characters (e.g., the building owner; the busybody neighbor "Quisqueya", who is supposed to be Puerto Rican but whose name refers to the island of Hispaniola and the Dominican Republic in particular). For me, they detracted from the plot's momentum and also injected a flippant quality to an otherwise somber tale. Perhaps that was the author's intent.

Despite some quibbles, I think The Book of Unknown Americans is a notable work that merits a thoughtful read.

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Yellow Crocus

March 24, 2018
Yellow CrocusYellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book. It was a short and gripping read, both the early chapters focused on Mattie and the later ones centered around Lisbeth. Many have criticized its portrayal of slavery as not being brutal enough, but I disagree, seeing as how the story depicts quite accurately how slaves essentially had no dominion over their own bodies. Mattie is wrested from her own infant to provide milk to the mistress's newborn; she is later w...
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Three Weeks With My Brother

March 24, 2018
Three Weeks With My BrotherThree Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, but I choose to round down because this book has gotten a lot of hype which perhaps left me feeling disappointed.

The story wasn't what I expected. It's formatted as one part travel guide, one part memoir. I found the travel portions somewhat boring, inasmuch as I thought this would be a travel adventure in the vein of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, or a life-and-death nail-biter like 127 Hours.

In contrast, the memoir...
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On Hiatus

February 18, 2018
I have not blogged of late, and while I have begun writing a seventh novel (Leaving the U.S. for Parts Unknown), it quickly became the casualty of my first case of severe writer's block.

I have decided to take a break while our country splutters on life support. Writing fiction feels frivolous to me right now. Setting our nation back on course feels like the more pressing object of my limited time, attention and activism.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me to date. I have six wonderful no...

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Land of the Freaked and the Home of the Dazed

December 10, 2016

Trolling for sample emails and information about imploring electoral college electors to “vote their conscience,” I stumbled upon some alarming and sobering comments from people who have already done so and been rebuked by these haughty public officials. Case in point: a woman who emailed the electoral college only to receive the following (highly abridged) response to her very innocuous email:

“Nice try though to get Electors to place their personal op...

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Not My Abusive Father

November 30, 2016

This isn’t a blog about resisting Trump. Pundits far more courageous and activist than I have been blogging abundantly about that topic—and I hope they continue to do so. Like many people, I have been experiencing unrelenting anxiety anticipating Trump’s impending inauguration. And let’s not kid ourselves: Despite wishful thinking (and a glimmer of hope) about recounts, electoral college rebels, and inevitable impeachments, we must all steel ourselves for the fact that Trump w...

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“Trolls” on Goodreads?

October 15, 2016

Who are these faceless, photo-less “members” who have seemingly joined Goodreads for the sole purpose of panning books with one- and two-star ratings? I've been slogging along at this writing game for over five years now, with five titles on Goodreads and another in the works. Lately, I’ve begun seeing new rankings popping up on my Goodreads pages almost daily.

At first, I was excited. I thought, “Maybe I’ve finally broken through! Maybe people are finally starting to notice m...

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The People vs. Greed

July 17, 2016
The People vs. GreedThe People vs. Greed by Joseph W. Cotchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The People vs. Greed is a difficult read, both in the sense that it will turn your stomach, and in the sense that it is a well-researched, “lawyerly” tome that is laden with facts and hard evidence. Like a crime scene photo in a criminal trial, it is ugly to look at but impossible (and immoral) to turn away from. This book contains few, if any, “fluffy” vignettes that so typify today’s nonfiction. Rather than being ...
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The Daddy Diaries

January 10, 2016
The Daddy DiariesThe Daddy Diaries by Joshua Braff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d give The Daddy Diaries a solid 3.75. If you’re familiar with the Australian TV series House Husbands, Joshua Braff’s "take" on the subject could easily become the U.S. adaptation.

What I liked: The tender scenes between diarist Jay and his depressed son, Alex. The fact that the economic role reversal between Jay and wife Jackie is not a source of friction—Jay is secure enough in his manhood to appreciate his wife for who she...

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The Two-Family House

December 28, 2015
The Two-Family HouseThe Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Two-Family House is an engaging, quick read I could not put down. My own mother and aunt and their two husbands lived in a similar setup in Brooklyn in the 1950s. After my parents moved to Queens, Long Island in 1958 to raise their growing family, we visited the two-family Brooklyn house each Christmas when I was a young child. There I witnessed an easy, open flow of activity and communication between my aunt’s and cous...
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Sheryl Sorrentino: Real Fiction for Real Women™

Sheryl Sorrentino is a practicing attorney by day who unexpectedly discovered her passion for writing after learning of a long-deceased half-brother in 2007. She is the author of five novels (Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz; An Unexpected Exile; The Floater; Stage Daughter and Stop & Frisk) with a sixth (Smarter Than That) slated for release Spring of 2017. She lives with her husband and teenage daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can learn more about Sheryl Sorrentino by visiting her Facebook page at!/pages/Sheryl-Sorrentino/249323025094995. Follow Sheryl on Twitter at @SherylSorrentin.