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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is set in Edgecombe St. Mary, an English village where Major Ernest Pettigrew lives a solitary life. He's a retired army officer, widowed, certain at all times of the proper behavior for the occasion, and unfailingly polite while constantly annoyed by other's people shortcomings. When he receives news of his brother's death, the first person he meets is Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a widow and local shopkeeper of Pakistani descent who has come to collect payment of a bill. She comforts him, and the two of them discover they have much in common, including a love of reading. Their mutual attraction runs afoul of those who look down on their cross-cultural relationship, and modern life threatens to further undo the predictable life in the village. Helen Simonson's debut novel has received positive reviews with the Boston Globe saying, "The major's relationship with Mrs. Ali allows him to see his world in a very different light. Their growing affection encourages Mrs. Ali to entertain possibilities she would never have imagined. Simonson's debut is graceful, funny, perceptive, and satisfying."