Mumbai New York Scranton: A Memoir

Tamara Shopsin is a talented young Brooklynite whose witty illustrations appear in the New York Times Book Review and other high-profile publications. She spends Saturday mornings making breakfast--pancakes, bacon and "unholy amounts of eggs"--at her father's restaurant, which was made famous by his outsized personality (featured in two New Yorker articles by Calvin Trillin). She rides her bicycle everywhere and, in her spare time, she makes novelties like matchbooks and paper umbrellas to sell online, warehousing them in the Scranton home she shares with her photographer husband, Jason.

Shopsin's life may sound like an urban cliché, but Mumbai New York Scranton is a fresh, engaging memoir of traveling with Jason in India and what happens when they return. Written in an episodic, stream-of-consciousness style, her seemingly artless approach belies a lively and observant mind. Her descriptions of life with Jason are especially sweet and affecting, while what unfolds after their return to New York is harrowing and tense. Her portrayal of her quirky family, is vivid and loving; as an urban social history spanning the generations, it is sheer pleasure.

Shopsin's use of the present tense provides an urgency that sometimes, especially in earlier chapters, comes at the expense of clarity and context. On balance, however, this is a terrific and winning memoir, a love letter to a city and a family. Shopsin can add writing to her list of talents along with drawing, crafting, cooking and her egg-cracking prowess. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

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