Brass by Xhenet Aliu


A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel and dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now, it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, ...

Details Brass

Release DateJan 23rd, 2018
PublisherRandom House
GenreFiction, Adult

Reviews Brass

  • Angela M
    This is a fantastic debut novel, captivating and well written, about mothers and daughters, broken by the abandonment of fathers , a husband , a lover, about secrets kept and seeking identity. There are other layers of the story - the search of an immigrant for a escape from communism to a better life, the struggle of women who are single parents and the things that life deals that get in the way. There are two alternating narratives. Elsie, an e...
  • Fran
    The brass mills in Waterbury, Connecticut have closed. Factories have been abandoned. In 1996, Elsie Kuzavinas is nineteen years old. She is a waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner. She wants to leave this depressed town once she graduates from high school and can buy a car. Elsie depends upon her mother Mamie, an assembly line worker, for transportation. Sometimes Mamie forgets to pick Elsie up from work. Enter Bashkim, an Albanian line cook at the d...
  • Esil
    It's hard to believe that Brass is a debut novel for Xhenet Aliu. It's a powerful story, and so well written. The story is told in two timelines from the alternating points of view of mother Ellie and daughter Luljeta. Ellie's part of the story takes place when she is in her late teens, meets Luljeta's father, and gets pregnant. Luljeta's story takes place 17 years later, as she is finishing high school and trying to figure out who she is and wha...
  • TL
    I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own:).----Entered this giveaway on a whim:), was looking for a family saga type of story and this one sounded promising and a little different.I found both timelines of the story equally compelling but was more captivated by Elsie's story than Luljeta most of the time. This doesn't flinch away from what everyone goes through and there were times I wan...
  • Bandit
    I was in a mood for a literary novel and this certainly fit the bill. Strikingly good for a debut, if only all too bleak as the realities of the American dream often can be, this novel is essentially a mother daughter story, told in alternating perspectives from both at around the same age. The mother plotline is definitively more compelling and interesting, taking up the bulk of the book and rightly so. Drawing on autobiographical experiences in...
  • Tyler Goodson
    Elsie is a waitress at the Betsy Ross diner, living in a town that's dying after most of the brass mills have shut down. Add one Albanian line cook, fast-forward 17 years, and meet Luljeta, Elsie's daughter. In alternating chapters, and with prose that's the opposite of reserved, Aliu shares the story of a mother and daughter trying to escape their circumstances and find something better. It's a novel with a big personality and an even bigger hea...
  • Irene
    Told from two alternating points of view two decades apart this is the story of Elsie, the single mom who started out with high hopes and good intentions when she fell in love with a married man."It was 1996, the middle of March, a brutal part of the year when spring was supposed to hit but didn't, when I'd given up on ever being warm again."Elsie's only daughter Luljeta both loves and hates her mother, never quite feeling like she fits in anywhe...
  • KC
    Waterbury, CT. A hard factory town with a high immigrant population; a small city like many others, to locals, there are two scenarios. Never escaping or for those lucky enough, to break free. This is a realistic coming-of-age, mulit-genterational tale between mother and daughter. Young Elsie works hard as a waitress at a local eatery. She soon finds herself pregnant by a married co-worker and with no promising future. Jump forward 17 years and L...
  • Beckie
    Engaging from the get-go. I have been waiting to read more from Xhenet since finishing her collection of short stories, and this novel does not disappoint. The flip-flopping of character stories between chapters makes this rough/sweet tale a "can't...stop...reading...even though I need to be doing other life things" situation. Loved it.
  • Kasa Cotugno
    I chose this because of its location, since I lived near Waterbury CT for almost 20 years. Descriptions of the city, its inhabitants, its diverse population rang true. Even the architecture of its milltown history. However, the story did not hang fire for me. Two protagonists - mother and 17 year old daughter -- tell their stories in alternate chapters, but most of what provides interest is unfortunately revealed in cover notes. As the story fill...
  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    via my blog:“One look at my stringy White Rain hair and yeah right I’d ever be the girlfriend of a boy named Laird or Lawrence or Anything the III.”There are so many stories about girls full of sunshine and promise ,which can be wonderful, reading about their struggles with which ivy league college to pick, or which country to start their European vacation in but this isn’t about the haves. Elsie wor...
  • Stephanie Doyle
    This had some of my favorite novel components: more than one generation of mother daughter relationships, blue collar town, struggle, American was like a Bruce Springsteen song off The River album. I loved the writing, the story itself was a little secondary to that. Free e-book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
  • Amy Morgan
    Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. This book was amazing! This is the next must read for fans of The Nix. Elsie dreams of nothing more than saving enough money from her job at the Betsy Ross Diner so she can get a car and get out of Waterbury, CT to start a new life.  The brass mills have shut down and life in this town is nothing but a dead end. Bashkim is a line cook at the Betsy Ross. He left a wife behind in Albania to make...
  • Megan Nichols
    Can't wait to get this in the mail in a few weeks!10/26: just got it in the mail! can't wait to read it :)This book was amazing. I was a little shocked at the ending. Might reread it soon because I enjoyed it that much. This was definitely different from books I usually read.
  • Donna Davis
    Hugely original, and not only because of the Albanian characters. Poignant and funny; I have never characterized a work of fiction as containing humility, but that's what I find here. Full review is in progress.
  • Chris Blocker
    There's a strong possibility you haven't heard of Xhenet Aliu... yet. She published a little known collection four years ago, Domesticated Wild Things and Other Stories. Personally, I think it is one of the best, most well-rounded collections I've had the pleasure of reading (see my review here). Her stories were dark, yet hopeful, poetic, still simple, specific and universal—so much of what I love. So I was excited when I learned Aliu would so...
  • Michelle Sibley
    I really tried to like this but I found it a struggle, I just couldn’t relate or connect to any of the characters or the plot. Well written but didn’t hold my interest unfortunately.
  • Elizabeth Henry
    Although I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway, I would definitely have bought it. I loved it! It was one of those " I'll quit reading when I finish the next chapter...okay....the next chapter". I couldn't put it down. It now has a place on my special bookshelf. I have one shelf in my bookcase that are for the books that I can read over and over again and still enjoy as much the tenth time as the first time!
  • Anna
    The writing in this novel was very witty and clever. The author has a strong style and I look forward to more from her. Brass kept me interested and the pages kept turning without ever feeling like a drag. It was character driven, not plot driven, and the characters were brought to life through Aliu's writing. They definitely felt real, and not just one-dimensional on the page. I liked the themes of what it means to be an immigrant and how hard (...
  • Brooke
    I loved the way this book was written. In one chapter it was about the mother Elsie when she was 17 working at a restaurant and becoming pregnant, to Luljeta (Lulu) being close to the same age as her mom was when she became pregnant and realizing she wanted to know more about her dad in the next chapter. Going back and forth kept my attention.
  • Sammy Allen
    This novel is about two women, mother and daughter, who are fighting their own demons in order to survive. Told in duel perspective 17 years apart this novel was so insightful, and drew the reader in. I was slightly hesitant to read this novel for some reason, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying this novel. Elsie’s chapters seem intimate and the developments immediate. Luljeta’s portions of the novel, spoken by an unknown actor, detail her sto...
  • Donna
    This debut novel focuses on 3 generations of strong women, the lessons they've learned and the mistakes they've made. The youngest, Luljeta, is raised without ever knowing her father, an Albanian immigrant. Her mother chose to never allow him into his daughter's life, although he wanted to be with her mother. All the characters are hard working people looking to get out of their surroundings and make a better life. The dialogue is brutally honest...
  • Amy W
    3 1/2*
  • ChallengeGReads
    An ambitious novel, which was personally unpleasant to read, but more than likely will be a critical darling when it hits shelves in January. The pearl of this oyster lies not in the individual stories themselves, but in the juxtaposition between the two. The characters are heavily flawed to the point that while they are realistic, they are in fact not likeable. If you do not like reading about wretched characters than you will want to skip this ...
  • Kati Berman
    BrassBrass relates to Waterbury, CT, the brass mill town, that has seen it’s heyday in the past. Now it is a poor blue collar city, where immigrants are trying to chase the American Dream. I was drawn to this book, because I am an immigrant myself and also because I lived nearly 30 years in Connecticut, barely 20 minutes away from Waterbury and was well aware of the current plight of the city. This book is about a mother, Elsie, granddaughter o...
  • Nann
    The grit in this story is almost palpable. In 1990 teen-aged Elsie was a waitress at a diner in Waterbury, Connecticut. She fell in love with a coworker, Albanian immigrant Bakshim, and got pregnant. The problem (among others) was that he had a wife in Albania. He left Elsie to raise their daughter, Luljeta. Present-day: Luljeta's college hopes are dashed when her application is rejected. She discovers that she has relatives on her father's side ...
  • Jenn
    Elsie is a young waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner. She hopes her nickel and dime tips will take her away from her small town of Waterbury, Connecticut. Instead, she becomes pregnant to Bashkim - a married man from Albania who works at the Diner as a line cook. Elsie doesn't quite know what's going to happen once the baby comes. Will Bashkim stay or will he go back to his wife? Fast forward seventeen years and we have headstrong, independent Lulje...
  • Annie
    Teenagers may be the most infuriating people on the planet. Even while they’re confused, hormonal, inexperienced, and terrified, they’re always more than ready to charge ahead into bad decisions. When I was a teenager, I muddled along as best I could but still made a lot of mistakes. Now that I’m older, even though I am not a parent, I want to shout at them when they’re about to do something irreparable. This was certainly true as I read ...
  • Diane Payne
    There are many things to like about this novel: the blue collar setting, the multicultural characters, the wry humor. When the narrator switched to second person, it took me awhile to figure out who the new teenager narrator was in the novel. I don't think second person worked well either. The narration didn't flow as seamlessly forcing the "you" throughout her sections. Though, the strongest chapter in the novel was Chapter 14, a second person c...