Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

Passion is at the heart of this historical novel, where a young woman chases her lover from Chile to San Francisco during the Gold Rush of 1849.

Eliza has led a pleasant but sheltered youth, an orphan taken in by a spinster British woman and her businessman brother in Valparaiso, Chile. When she falls in love with a company clerk, her future as a society lady quickly evaporates: He leaves in the madness to find California gold, and she disappears to follow in a delusion of love and lust.

Her amazing adventure is quite a story. She falls in with the wrong people - who end up being the right people - and finds a family away from home. She meets people from all countries and all walks of life, living out a journey she never could have imagined: becoming an assistant to a Chinese healer, impersonating a man, playing piano in a brothel and more. It's only when she gives up her quest that she finds that happiness has been building all along.

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Brother's Husband (Volume 1) by Gengoroh Tagame

A Japanese father is forced to deal with his emotions about his twin brother when a large Canadian man arrives at his door, introducing himself as the now-deceased brother's husband.

This was a quick, fun book that dealt lightly with some heavy emotions. Through his young daughter's enthusiasm for life, Yaichi gradually comes to terms with his memories of Ryoji's coming out and his feelings about his gay brother-in-law Mike. 

Traditional Japanese social rigidity limits any adult show of emotion, and Ryoji is sometimes jealous of Mike's ability to hug Kana at will and to openly cry and express his grief. Kana's buoyant excitement in discovering she has an uncle to introduce to her friends and show around town acts as a catalyst for the two men's friendship.

There's obviously more to the story, and I'll be interested to read more about these complex characters. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Three Junes by Julia Glass

Readers check in with a family's members three times (in the month of June) to learn about their relationships and loves. We meet recently widowed Paul as he vacations in Greece and ponders his new life and the condition of his family. Then we meet his sons, years later, as they gather for Paul's funeral. Further on, we meet up with prodigal son Fenno when his dog - his last link to his mother - dies and is buried.

We read this for book discussion. I was only halfway through by our discussion date, and decided I was going to continue because - unlike everyone else - I was enjoying the story.

A lot of the book centers around Fenno and his life off in New York. He moves across the world, graduates college, begins a business, comes to terms with his sexuality, deals with the impact of AIDS on his circle of friends, and makes visits back to Scotland to see his family. What he doesn't do is fall in love. Which makes him a slightly tragic figure.

I liked the book - it's rather quiet, without big drama. Just people trying to do the best they can, and sometimes failing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A preview of the upcoming movie adaptation was enough to finally convince I needed to read this children's classic. The extra bonus in the library catalog was an available unabridged audio version read by the author herself.

An awkward girl and her genius preschool brother are swept into the intergalactic war of good and evil as they try to bring their scientist father back from a prolonged absence. They're joined by a neighborhood teenage boy with his own special talents.

Led by three supernatural creatures who steer their adventure, the children encounter many new and different creatures. They also learn to recognize their own strengths and the good in the world.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but reflect that I probably would not have enjoyed it as a child (I hated science fiction). I'm certainly glad that I'll understand the references now, as this book is considered an essential classic in the canon of children's literature.