Bright Lines is the story of the Brooklyn-dwelling Saleem family that has immigrated from Bangladesh to enjoy the American dream. However, behind the perfect facade of their restored Brooklyn home, Anwar and Hashi are struggling with secrets from the past and discontent with the present. Their two college age daughters are stumbling their way into their futures. Much to her mother's dismay, Hashi and Anwar's biological daughter Charu seems in no hurry to make something of herself, instead choosing to wile away her time with boys and attempting to design clothes for the fashion label she dreams of. Adopted daughter Ella is quiet and awkward but has an unparalleled way with plants. In one transformative year, the family will have to face up to their secrets and the country of their past to learn to live again in the country of their future.
To be quite honest, I struggled with Bright Lines at the outset. It's slow to get started, and while the characters sprang to life, occasionally the dialogue was awkward and wooden. Anwar's dialogue in particular is sprinkled with pedantic tangents that allowed my attention to wander.
That said, Bright Lines really grew on me. Islam has that rare talent that can render New York City into something that seems somehow magical. The Saleems' Brooklyn house with its carefully tended oasis of a garden springs off the page. Maya, Charu, and Ella's adventures to parties and to the beach have the New York City grit stripped away to reveal a new place with undercurrents of possibility.