The best books on relationships that define us across time

Iulia Dobre-Trifan Author Of Forward
By Iulia Dobre-Trifan

The Books I Picked & Why

Three Daughters of Eve

By Elif Shafak

Book cover of Three Daughters of Eve

Why this book?

The individual conflicts described in this book stem from the reality of relationships that are supposed to be in a certain way, but somehow get twisted into something different, rather forbidden, or at least with blurred boundaries. I love the interweaving of spirituality, cultural diversity, and the parallel timelines, past and present. The characters are complex and represent different value systems. Swinging between their own personal struggles, trying to find suitable answers to the big questions of life, they get caught in a web of events that lead to surprising consequences. 

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles

By Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel

Book cover of The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Why this book?

Who would expect a stray cat to be such a fine philosopher and insightful observer of human nature? How deeply affectionate the relationship between a man and his cat could be? This book provides amazing perspectives. Not only is the feline companion of the main character a witty, funny, loving being, but he’s also a witness to what happens in his caretaker’s life, mirroring friendship, love, loss, and standing by his human’s side through unexpected trials. I like how the author personifies the cat and how he uses the travels of the surprising pair (cat-man) to metaphorically picture the main stages of human growth.  

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

By Jamie Ford

Book cover of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Why this book?

This is an emotional tale about the bond of love that defies time, wars, families, social and cultural impediments. I like the historical background where the story starts – World War II – and the delicate descriptions of the harsh reality, as seen by the eyes of the children who become the main characters. The (a)symmetry of relationships is also peculiar. A boy becomes a father and has to make peace both with the memory of his father and his own attitude towards his son. The suspenseful plotting of roles of each character in the overall events gives the story an aura of mystery and chance. The cross-cultural elements ranging from Chinese, Japanese, and American ways only add to the charm of this touching novel about the time-enhanced power of authentic attachments.    

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Khaled Hosseini

Book cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns

Why this book?

An unexpected sibling-like relationship emerging from the hardships of a so-called conventional family in Afghanistan is the central plot of this book. The details of everyday life, the historical and political realism, the characters displaying a wide range of emotions, from deep humanity to extreme cruelty, all contribute to this multi-layered drama of love, sacrifice, and redemption.

Over several decades, the author depicts the changing contexts of both individuals and society, and the shifting values generated by the need to survive. Even if the overall tone of the book is passionately dark, even hopeless, at times, the author succeeds in building a touching contrast filled with serenity, as the events reach their conclusion.

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The Last Garden in England

By Julia Kelly

Book cover of The Last Garden in England

Why this book?

A delightful blending of strong female characters, lyrism of nature and gardens, historical background of the second world war, and five parallel perspectives over the fate and purpose of a beautiful place, going around a century of transitions. I enjoyed the author’s way of symbolically mirroring the lives of the characters into the garden that connects them unexpectedly and mysteriously, over time. This book is a gentle reminder of how our own destiny may be influenced by total strangers, who are neither aware, nor intentional, about the lasting effects of their actions.

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