Brass by Xhenet Aliu


A fierce debut novel about mothers and daughters, haves and have-nots, and the stark realities behind the American Dream   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, thi...

Details Brass

Release DateJan 23rd, 2018
PublisherRandom House
GenreFiction, Contemporary

Reviews Brass

  • Emily May
    “It’s nobody’s fault, Luljeta. It’s not a fault. It’s just mistakes. Or, I don’t know, not mistakes, just decisions that led to other decisions, and on and on, and in the end the first decision seemed too far buried to get back to and change.” Brass is a quiet family drama highly-praised by one of my favourite authors of quiet family dramas - Celeste Ng. It seemed like an obvious choice for me, especially following the kind of books...
  • 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...
  • Larry H
    I'm between 3.5 and 4, so I'll round up."...often the love your mother gives feels like it's being rejected by your body, as if you're the B-positive recipient of an A-negative blood donation."The often-complicated relationship between mothers and daughters has been fodder for literature, movies, and music for many, many years. What is it about this type of relationship that can bring such fierce love, friendship, and loyalty, as well as resentme...
  • Debbie
    Made me grab my pogo stick!Nodding my head yes yes yes! Super well written and insightful, this debut novel made me grab my old pogo stick and hop all over the place in glee. Whee! I even highlighted sentences from the Acknowledgments!Oh, there are so many gem sentences, so many rockin’ rubies. They aren’t all glittery with flowery poetry, but they fed my head. Sometimes a writing style fits your psyche perfectly, and that’s what happened h...
  • Elyse
    Update: I’m I said I would:I had never read anything by Xhenet Aliu....( I’m not even clear on how to pronounce her name), but I’m now interested in reading her collection of short stories called,“Domesticated Wild Things and other Stories”. The more I read about Xhenet Aliu... the more I find myself interested. She certainly wrote from experience in “BRASS”. Xhenet is from Waterbury, Connecticut - born to an Albanian fat...
  • 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...
  • Diane S ☔
    3.5 Waterbury, CN. once the home of large employing Brass Mills, but now they've closed, the only businesses left are service industries. Elsie at eighteen, wants only to escape this dead end town, but instead she falls for the Albanian cook at the restaurant where they both work. Eighteen years later she will still be in this town, now raising her own daughter, who is looking for her own answers.The story alternates between the past, telling Els...
  • 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...
  • Karen
    I enjoyed this story of Elsie and Luljeta, a mother and daughter from Waterbury, Connecticut. Their story is told in alternating chapters, Elsie’s being when she was 17 and working in a diner where she falls in love with her coworker, an Albanian immigrant named Bakshim, and ends up pregnant. Luljeta’s story takes place when she is 17 yrs old and applying to college, and she wants to find out about her father, who we find out, had a wife in A...
  • Jessica
    I loved this book so much that I read all 290 pages in a single day. Granted, work was closed and I lost power due to Windmageddon, but still. This was a great read. More to come.
  • Karen
    19-year old Elsie, daughter of Lithuanian immigrants, has gotten involved with co-worker Albanian line cook Bashkim who calls her ‘dum dum’ yet gives hope to this naive girl for a future together. His insincere compliments, casual hook-ups in a parking lot and the fact that he’s already married do not bode well for this relationship. Nor does the fact that Elsie finds herself pregnant.Elsie’s path forward as a pregnant single mother alter...
  • 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...
  • Mary
    ...often the love your mother gives feels like it's being rejected by your body, as if you're the B-positive recipient of an A-negative blood donation.Quite a good debut novel with an interesting, self-deprecating style. The frustrating dysfunctional nature of familial relationships (“what did I do wrong?”), the (realistic) dead-end socio-economic cycle so many are unable to break from, the deep dead pain of a parent who has wronged you - thi...
  • Rebecca Foster
    A touching story of the American working-class struggle and motherhood against the odds. Elsie’s language immediately gives us a taste of her sassy voice. A second-generation Lithuanian-American, she is desperate to leave town and escape her parents’ blue-collar example, but ends up working at the local Betsy Ross Diner instead. Here she falls for an Albanian line cook named Bashkim. Elsie’s narrative alternates with chapters narrated by he...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Cindy Wilkerson
    Oprah recommended it.Celeste Ng blurbed it.So of course, I had to read it.Sometimes as children we forget that our parents have lived whole other lives without us.A story about the relationship between a mother and daughter, Brass has as much humor as it does heart.Aliu is a fantastic story teller and I’m excited to see what she will come out with next.
  • Dave
    BrassIt begins with rich sparkling prose about post-industrial Connecticut, dead-end jobs, and dead-end lives. It consists of alternating chapters told from a mother’s point of view as a pregnant teenager who made a mistake in the parking lot of the restaurant she waitressed at and seventeen years later from the daughter’s point of view, lost, rootless, resentful, wondering who her family was. It is a heartfelt novel capturing the sadness and...
  • Joe M
    A moving, but often hilarious, debut, I read this novel in awe that every paragraph contained so many gems of wit, compassion, comedy, and human understanding. Told in parallel narratives it's hard to pick a favorite between the mother/daughter storylines; each with their own dreams and disappointments, faults and charm--you can't help routing for them both even though their tough realities seem inevitable, and the alternating perspectives make e...
  • Jaclyn Crupi
    I love parallel narratives and a strong, sassy voice and this had both so you can imagine my disappointment when halfway through Aliu loses her handle on the voice and the plot takes over. That said, this fierce novel of a mother and daughter searching for more than their lot in life is a strong debut that showed real promise.
  • 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...