Thursday, February 10, 2011

8. THE LACUNA - Barbara Kingsolver

I have been an on-again, off-again fan of Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible showed me a new way to write multiple points of view. However, this book may have turned me off again, like the smell of rancid milk when you are craving cornflakes.

Nana, I know you will ask for a summary of this book. It is next to impossible. In one sentence: a boy grows up learning to cook, and this task brings him into unattainable and unbelievable situations.

Harrison Shepherd tries to remember his exploits through his own writing. His time with Frida Kahlo as her cook in Mexico, the strange legends of the lacuna near his home, the assassination of Trotsky when Shepherd was his secretary, the history of the Incas and the Spaniards and the indiginous tribes...

Stop. I adore history, but this is simply too much. Pack in the communism trials during the Great War, and I can no longer find the beauty in the beginning, the aqua depths of the lacuna with bones, gold, and teeth.

Recommended if flying New York to Australia with multiple layovers.

2.75 out of 5.0 Mexican Prairie Fires.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


On the streets dipping down to the Pacific in Seattle, two friends - a Chinese-American boy named Henry and a Japanese-American girl named Keiko - forged a bond that will last from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the 1980s.

Due to Henry's father's racism toward all things Japanese, Henry often walked Keiko home to Japantown, a few blocks from his own home in Chinatown. They were the only two Asian faces in school, bright enough to earn scholarships in return for their work during lunch and after school.

Later, Keiko's family is interred in a concentration camp in Idaho, one of the big atrocities of the war. Still, Henry manages to see her and writes letters every week. Eventually, they are unanswered or returned.

As Henry tells this story to his son, Marty, the book takes a new twist. Is this a father-son relationship theme or a gritty look at the dark moments in U.S. history? Or, is the underlying love of jazz a riff to dance no matter what is happening in life? I know the amazing characterization and strong plot made this a fast read for me. When I learn something while in bliss, it is just an added bonus.

3.5 out of 5.0 Bitter Sweets.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

5. FINNY - Justin Kramon vs. 6. ONE DAY - David Nicholls

To our left, relatively new welter weight, FINNY. Sent to me personally by the author, wrapped sentimentally with a brown feather tucked in the ribbon. Sold.

To our right, New York Times best-seller ONE DAY. Given to me for Christmas from my sister, whom I love dearly and hope never reads my blog.

Let the battle begin.

Both stories follow the lifetimes of love interests. In FINNY, the heroine (yes, Finny) and Earl live based on the thread of stolen kisses when Finny was a young teen. Finny goes to college, Earl travels to France. Each maintains contact through letters and short visits to Earl's father.

However, ONE DAY has the unique aspect of looking at one particular day each year in the lives of Emma and Dexter, British chums who cannot decide if they despise or adore each other. I would have kicked Dex to the curb by chapter four, but some girls always like the bad boy.

Ding, ding. The bell rings. A decision must be made. The round goes to FINNY. It's lovely descriptions and elegant prose make this a novel to savor, like the espresso the pair drink in Paris. While I absolutely loved the 1980s flashbacks in ONE DAY - and is a concept many writers are knocking their heads over - it just did not stick with me longer than... one day. Also, purposeful manipulation of my tears makes Beelzebub earn another flogger.

I look forward to reading more from Justin Kramon in the future.

4.0 out of 5.0 Horse Feathers.

2.4 out of 5.0 Night and Days.