Random House, 05/31/2011
I know that many of you have enjoyed Shang Hai Girls, also by Lisa See, which leaves the reader asking, "What happens next?!" In Dreams of Joy,
See has Joy return to Communist China during Mao's Great Leap Forward,
which began in 1958. It is estimated that there were 45 million
fatalities due to famine during this period. See's narrative is rich in
detail and unflinchhing in her portrayal of this horrific historical
time. Despite this rarely seen view of Shang Hai, the story is also
about the power of love between mothers and daughters, between sisters,
between men and women, and love for one's country. If you're a fan of
Lisa See's work, this is a must-read!
Set in the town of Red Hook, Maine, It tells the stories of two families, united first by marriage and then by tragedy. The Hewins are quintessential native Mainers and the Kimelbrods are a sophisticated Jewish family from Manhattan. The tension between the locals and the "from aways" is very believable. With clear and precise writing, the characters spring to life. This is wonderful summer reading!
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Simon & Schuster, 02/10/2009
This is the story of two women, a young refugee from a small village in Nigeria and the editor of a posh women's magazine in London. Their lives unfold in ways that are sometimes humorous, sometimes painful. The language is beautiful and direct. The characters are deeply developed. Their story is unforgettable. This will definitely be on my Top Five for 2010!
This book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a woman who died of cervical cencer in 1951. Before she died, her doctor at Johns Hopkins took a tissue sample from her cancerous cells. Her family never knew about it, nor did anyone give consent. However, the "HeLa" cells have since become the foundation for nearly all important medical discoveries since that time. Skloot's book tells the story of Henrietta and her family, but also tells the story of the racial divide among patients as well as the history of the ethical debate regarding consent for medical procedures. The author spent almost ten years working with Henrietta's family and uncovering data and she herself is very much part of the story. Very interesting. Very well-written.
Lorrie Moore has written an absolutely lovely novel with A Gate At The Stairs! I was so captivated by her use of metaphor and the power of her language. The story follows Tessie Kjeltin as she heads off to a large midwestern university and takes on a part-time job as a nanny for a family planning to adopt a baby. Tessie is drawn into the lives of her employers as they all struggle with issues related to race, identity, and the meaning of parenthood. The plot moves along at a good pace and the characters are well-developed.
Broadway Books, 05/06/2008
I don’t care for books about war. I’m not much of a history reader. However, I am a huge fan of Chris Bohjalian so decided to give it a try. After the first few paragraphs, I could not turn the pages fast enough. It follows Anne Emmerich, an eighteen year-old girl from a wealthy Prussian family, her mother, and her twelve year-old brother, as they journey westward at the end of WWII. They are joined by a POW from Scotland who had been working at their estate and a Jewish man who escaped from a train bound for Auschwitz. There is also a parallel story line that depicts the journey of a group of Jewish women who are on a gruesome death march to a concentration camp. One of the strangely endearing things about all of these characters is that they really have no idea what has happened during the war that has raged all around them over the course of the past few years.
The thing that I loved the most about this book was that it created a sense of the time and the place so vividly that I felt that the desolate landscape of Eastern Germany was right outside my window. Some of the violence was graphic and difficult to read, but the depth was in the details. I found myself not breathing through my nose as the author described what would have smelled so very foul and reaching for an extra blanket as he wrote about the bitter aching cold. I cried through the sweet romance and I cried through the losses that the characters suffered. My heart broke when they risked death to be kind to one another. Finally I cried when the book ended just because it had ended.
This book deepened and expanded my knowledge of this part of history in a way that I did not expect. So, if you like books about war or history (or if you don’t), if you like books about love and desperation and great sacrifice, if you like novels that are fast-faced and well-written, read this latest work by Chris Bohjalian. It’ll stay with you long after you put it back on the shelf.