(Book Review) Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Fourth and Sycamore

Review by Emily Webber

Brass, Xhenet Aliu’s debut novel, is at its core a story about a mother and daughter, about delinquent dads, and the search for the American dream. The novel opens in the 90’s with Elsie, working at the Betsy Ross Diner in Connecticut, where she meets a line cook named Bashkim. He’s fled the chaos and violence of Albania in search of a better life. He’s older and married, but in America alone because his wife refuses to leave their home country. One of the first conversations between Elsie and Bashkim goes like this:

“You’re freezing,” he said. “Hell froze over. Your boyfriend picking you up?”

“My mother. I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Yes you do. I am your boyfriend.”

“I don’t know if your wife would like that,” I said.

“You don’t say anything about my wife. That’s rule number one.”

Rule number one. It was…

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