Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Leavers

Deming Guo grows up in a small town in upstate New York. He is the only Asian kid in school and staring at his adoptive parent’s, knows from a young age that he just doesn’t belong. Losing himself in music is the only way Daniel (his newly adopted name) feels happy. But Peter and Kay Wilkinson, Daniels parents who live a life of academics, can only see as far as the classroom. He is fed, clothed and has a nice home. But it is not enough. As Daniel becomes a surly teen, he dreams of a life where he can finally be himself, play his guitar and stop pretending he belongs. Following glimpses of memories from his younger self, Daniel begins the search for his birth mother and the life he believes he was meant to lead. Scared and alone and making quite a few mistakes, Daniel fights his way to the truth, for better or worse. This is a beautifully written story about motherhood, friendship and following your heart. Like the butterfly effect - one decision, a single choice can change the lives of everyone it touches. Filled with beautiful characters, I enjoyed this read  - BUT I must admit it is a slow go. Lisa Ko is definitely an author to watch but you have to be in the mood for a quiet story where not much happens.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Book of Summer

Bess Codman’s life has turned upside down. She is a beautiful, smart ER doctor in San Francisco embroiled in an unexpected and bitter divorce and has flown back to Nantaucket to stay at her family’s summer home called Cliff House. Her eccentric, bizarre mother is there trying to save their historic home as the nearby cliffs erode into the sea. (One interesting point is that these cliffs did erode in real life!) The danger is threatening and her mother’s behavior is beyond passionate and borderline schizophrenic. Bess has flown across the country to convince her mother to pack up and also attend her favorite cousin’s wedding, in the interim spilling the beans about her impending divorce. Her childhood sweetheart, adorable and perfect magically appears by her side to console, assist and rekindle long ago highschool feelings. The story is alternately narrated in the past by her grandmother Ruby, for whom Cliff House held great historical importance, and Bess dealing with present dangers and dramas. This third novel by Michelle Gable was my least favorite. (I devoured her other two!) Although I liked the idea and setting, I found the characters unrealistic and situations improbable. Some of you may enjoy this as a light summer read but it was no vacation for me, I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Swimming Lessons

Flora and Nan have returned to their quaint seaside town in England to care for their father, Gil, after he took a bad fall - turns out he is much more ill than they had imagined. Gil, a literary icon has never truly recovered from his wife’s disappearance twelve years earlier. Ingrid had been a loving mother and adoring wife but her inner demons and long held secrets emerge in a series of letters Gil finds hidden in his massive book collection. The story alternates the present day with letters describing the past and the real story of Ingrid and Gil. Young beautiful student enamored by older successful professor – becomes pregnant – enters shaky marriage and sacrifices her future. Ingrid has no support, no family. She craves love and attention. Their bohemian lifestyle and her dependence on him is suffocating his creative genius. When 12 years later he imagines seeing her through the bookstore window, the daughters, though skeptical, want to believe their mother loved them enough to return. I recommend this book purely for the captivating writing and style in which it is presented. I loved the manner in which the letters told the story. I was slightly bored at times through the repetitive swimming/ocean/beach descriptions. It is slow paced and little actually happens but the characters were interesting and it easily held me until the end. I guess I’m on the fence with this one but I would most certainly read this author again.

The Lost History of Stars

In October 1899, the Dutch Afrikaner settlers in South Africa are brutally removed from their homes, their farms are burned to the ground and the women and children are placed in concentration camps. The men have gone off to fight the British whose interest in the lucrative gold mines and control of the region have driven thousands of soldiers to war. What is known as the Boer War lasted for three long harsh years. Through the eyes of 14 yr old Lettie, The Lost History of Stars narrates their unimaginable quarantine living in sparse tents with little food, water or medicine. Lettie forms an unlikely friendship with a young British soldier guarding the camp. He gives her a book by Dickens. Lettie’s love of reading and dreams of writing fill her with the strength she needs to help her mother and siblings through the daily battle of living.  It is through the hopeful eyes of this young girl on the cusp of womanhood we learn the brutality of mankind against mankind. Her innocence and disbelief is so raw and honest that the pain is palpable. More than 100 years later, this history I knew little or nothing about is brought to life by this beautifully written work of historical fiction. As I read each chapter I fell deeper into the heart of Lettie’s sorrow, and her determination to remain hopeful. We are all looking up at the sky, the same stars - but cannot manage to peacefully share the same planet. It was happening then and it is happening now. Highly recommend this impassioned novel, you will learn from and love these characters long after the end.