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Off Course: A Novel
Off Course: A Novel
by Michelle Huneven
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.60
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huneven at her best, April 10, 2014
This review is from: Off Course: A Novel (Hardcover)
Cressida Hartley is suffering from a serious case of ennui. At 28, she is stagnating in ABD status, trying to finish her dissertation in economics, wholly disliking her field of expertise. It's the eighties, and Reaganomics doesn't suit her. But she found a way to integrate her affinity with art with her thesis--she's writing about the value of art in the marketplace. So she moves to her parents vacation A-frame in the Sierras, intending to wrap herself in the mountain air, solitude, and writing.

Soon enough, Cress seeks out disruptions and distractions, and becomes absorbed in the community. I was installed in the story quickly, as I noted that her quirky supporting cast of characters were humanized and sympathetic rather than straw caricatures. Her parents are demanding and difficult. They are building a new cabin and come down periodically, often on the verge of suing the contractor, Ricky Garsh. Cress's father is peevish and parsimonious to the point of churlish, even to his own children. Cress's sister, Sharon, now living in London, goes through the primal birth therapy, so popular during this era. This alerts the reader that the sisters had some significant issues. Cress is largely unaware of her deep-seated problems, and acts out by entwining in a difficult relationship. Twice. And with much older men.

"She wasn't making specific plans, but that hairline crack, she knew, could widen instantly to accommodate her, and day by day, its thin blackness grew less frightening, more logical and familiar, as if she could now walk right up, touch it with her fingertips, and, with a quick last smile over her shoulder at the fading world, slip right in."

This is not a prosaic domestic drama, not with Huneven at the helm. As in all her novels, she is plugged into collective concerns such as alcohol abuse and complex, obsessive relationships. And always, nature. The landscape, wildlife, and climate buttress the story and provide ample adventure and scenic beauty, as well as some brassy comedy.

This is Huneven's most fully realized novel, with a stable focus and a memorable denouement. I'm still inhabiting Cress's life, long after the last page.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2014 11:00 AM PDT

Coincidence: A Novel (P.S.)
Coincidence: A Novel (P.S.)
by J. W. Ironmonger
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.30
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "No one dies in comfortable old age in the saga of Azalea Lewis.", April 9, 2014
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If you think that your life is charmed and charged with coincidence, meet Dr. Thomas Post, a London university applied philosophy professor and gangly, red-haired coincidence authority. He will shoot down divine beliefs about coincidences with statistics, theories, and candid, rational, un-magical thinking. That is whom Azalea Lewis seeks out to question all the tragic coincidences in her life.

Azalea was born in the Isle of Man and orphaned at three when her mother disappeared while with her at a Devon fairground, Midsummer's Day, 1982. Later, she finds out her mother was abducted and killed that day, and that her father could have been one of three men. She was adopted by good-natured, loving missionaries and moved to Uganda. Her adoptive parents were also killed on Midsummer's Day, in 1992. Will she die, too, on the next Midsummer's Day, June 21, 2012? She thinks so. There are more coincidences to be revealed as Azalea and Thomas kindle an affectionate relationship, and she tells him what she knows of her life story.

As Thomas and Azalea become closer, they deliberate and examine the theories surrounding coincidence, luck, synchronicity--all the different and loaded words and beliefs that it entails. Thomas insists on the element of free will and randomness, and edifies Azalea on theories of determinism and providence, among other arguments. Azalea is open to the possibility of a master-controller, or divine intervention; Thomas trusts the scientific principles as explanation, although he is compassionate and sensitive to Azalea's position. Ultimately, he disregards the idea of a non-random influence.

"...coincidences...aren't the responsibility of any malign force--or even benign force. They're just things that happen from time to time. That's all."

Ironmonger's euphonious narrative seamlessly alternates different time periods from 1982 to 2012, weaving in disparate events and settings. From the Isle of Man, to Uganda during the brutal civil war, and present day London, the author constructs a riveting, page-turning story that will appeal to readers of popular and literary fiction. Although the framework of coincidence calls attention to the mechanics of plot design, it is accomplished with subtlety. Occasionally, it veers into over-deliberation, but when it does, it is brief and doesn't deter from its credibility. As June 21st draws near, the story becomes more and more intoxicating.

Addendum: What a coincidence--this is the second novel in a row that I read which remarks on the inherent problems of quantum mechanics, and how the observer affects what is being observed!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 12, 2014 2:17 AM PDT

by Lily King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I was raised on Science as other people are raised on God, or gods, or the crocodile.", April 8, 2014
This review is from: Euphoria (Hardcover)
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Three anthropologists form a circumstantial friendship in the 1930s while studying tribes in Papua, New Guinea. American Nell Stone (who is inspired by Margaret Mead) already has a best selling book on natives of the Solomon Islands. Nell's Australian husband, Fen, is jealous of her success, and is often reproachful and competitive. He is desperate to make a name for himself, and, instead of collaborating with Nell, he keeps his work hidden. However, Fen admits to a genuine regard for his wife's work.

The couple had recently studied the Mumbanyo, a frighteningly barbaric tribe, and left abruptly, at Nell's request, resigning to move to Australia to study the Aboriginal peoples. Fen wanted to stay in New Guinea; he is after a totemic flute that he learned of during their last days with the Mumbanyo, and believes that securing it is the key to his glory. However, out of love and dedication to Nell, he capitulated.

Andrew Bankston is a tall, lanky, wistful anthropologist who recently failed at suicide. He met Nell and Fen quite spontaneously, and talked them out of Australia and back into New Guinea, promising to find them a stimulating tribe to study. He corrals them on his motorized boat, and helps them settle in with the Tam people, about seven hours from where he is studying with the Kionas. Periodically, he comes to visit, and their developing friendship provides much of the adventure and drama of the novel. Each of them has their own talents and approach to ethnography. Fen thrives on experience, on doing, saturating in the culture by joining the inhabitants, almost impetuously. He's a hustler, and can learn languages swiftly--"he absorbs words like sunlight." Nell is a thinker with a deep empathy and imagination. Language is limited, in her estimation.

"You have to pay much more attention when you can't understand the words. Once comprehension comes, so much else falls away...words aren't always he most reliable thing."

Andrew is an excellent theorist, who ponders the science itself.

"I find I am more interested in this question of subjectivity, and the limited lens of the anthropologist...Perhaps all science is merely self-investigation."

The study of cultural differences by these individuals is not a tendentious prop to raise our consciousness. Rather, there's more of an allegory that coils and tightens, and ultimately astonishes. The intersection between the anthropologists and the tribes that they study is the predominant theme and the fulcrum of suspense in this story. I finished this novel a few days ago, but the parallels between the text, subject matter, and reader continue to heighten and captivate me. As the story progressed, it revealed clues that were intensified by the reader's observation of the anthropologists and the their immersion in the cultures.

"When only one person is the expert on a particular people, do we learn more about the people or the anthropologist when we read their analysis?"

And, too, there's the correlation to quantum physics that Nell and Andrew consider, i.e. that objectivity is impossible because the application of observation changes the matter being studied.

Although narrated in the first person by Andrew, the journal entries by Nell provide the potent drama, often in a subtle manner of extemporaneous observation. I felt like I was living with the Tam people, and exploring their behaviors and customs.

"Fen claims that if you just let go of your brain you find another brain, the group brain, the collective brain, and that it is an exhilarating form of human connection that we have lost in our embrace of the individual except when we go to war. Which is my point exactly."

I applaud everything about this novel--setting, characters, prose, and story. However, it is the voice of the novel--Andrew's and Nell's--that moved me the most. Their back-stories of past losses, and the disclosure of how Fen and Nell met, add dimension to the present. There's a lightness of spirit and yet a poignant acuity of their deepest thoughts and perceptions. The author avoids reductive and clichéd writing and characterizations. This was fresh, buoyant, and tender storytelling.

I've read numerous novels that embrace anthropology; however, this was more fully realized than Berlinski's FIELDWORK, less conspicuous than Yanagihara's PEOPLE IN THE TREES, and not cerebrally self-conscious like Rush's MATING (although I enjoyed all of those books). Lily King's approach is more intimate, and the presence of the reader as observer is exploratory and essential. EUPHORIA is emotionally compelling sans melodrama, gripping in its taut finesse, compassion, and colossal humanity.

"And maybe I will never find it all in one culture but maybe I can find parts of it in several cultures, maybe I can piece it together like a mosaic and unveil it to the world."
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2014 7:27 AM PDT

The Son: A novel
The Son: A novel
by Jo Nesbø
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.23

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "And you want to travel with her. And you want to travel blind ...For you've touched her perfect body with your mind", April 5, 2014
This review is from: The Son: A novel (Hardcover)
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Although I own a slew of Nesbo's Harry Hole books, I never did know where to begin. So, when this stand-alone was offered, I decided to give it a go. Therefore, I can't compare this to any book other than related thrillers or mysteries. It held its own, and I ripped through the pages in record time (just a few days), as I was riveted to the well-paced narrative. Nesbo did not squander character for plot; the main players were well-rounded and sympathetic.

Sonny Lofthus, now thirty, has been in prison for twelve years, since his father's death. Ab Lofthus, a police officer, apparently committed suicide, admitting to corruption in his suicide note. Sonny was a wrestling champ at school with a good future ahead, but after Ab's death, both he and his mother descended into despair. After his mother died of an overdose, Sonny became a heroin addict, and eventually agreed to take the fall for several murders and go to prison in return for being supplied heroin while locked up.

In prison, Sonny stays chiefly silent, and is known for having healing hands, almost holy hands that mend the broken soul. During a session where he lays his hands on a fellow inmate, at the start of the book, Sonny learns some startling news about his father--that, in fact, he was killed, and the corruption placed on him was bogus. This changes everything for Sonny, and in a convincing plan, he breaks out of prison with the help of the other, trusted convict.

Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game between Sonny and the police force, particularly Simon Kefas, a fine detective who once hit rock bottom with a gambling addiction, but pulled himself together with the love of a good woman (who is losing her eyesight and needs an expensive operation), and is now a solid member of the Homicide Squad, and a keen, Colombo-ish detective.

The thing that sets Sonny apart from other rabid drug addicts is that he is a well-mannered gentleman, like his father, and says "Please," "Thank-you," and other niceties in a soft-spoken voice. Although he is socially awkward, his kindness and integrity attract people who want to help him, including Martha, the manager of a group home for active drug addicts. Martha senses that he isn't using anymore, but something about Sonny penetrates her jaded veneer, and he is able to hide in plain sight, between the facility and his parent's now-empty house. Sonny has a plan, and people to see, and bad guys to confront. Along the way, Sonny grows up in unexpected ways.

The thrumming pace is largely due to the alternating chapters that go back and forth between Sonny and Simon, and a few other players in-between. Although the arc has a familiar formula, Nesbo maintains a fresh, complex plot by gradually revealing the back stories of Sonny, his father, and Simon. Simon's new partner, an ambitious and educated officer named Kari, is a sturdy addition to the story, and serves as Simon's sounding board and student.

I waited a few days before writing my review, as I had to think about the twist at the end. Was it organic, convincing, or was it a second-rate Shyamalan gimmick? I had to ponder whether it was trying to outsmart the audience, or whether the story affects the characters in authentic ways--how it changes them, what it teaches them, and what they gain or lose in the process. After thinking this through, I concluded that Nesbo did it right. He embraced the book's predominant theme of fathers and sons, and the strength of love to refute nihilism.

Nesbo demonstrated an arch wit and a tenderness for his characters, as well as a tie-in to the father/son theme, with the revelation of hiding in plain sight. Moreover, his blending in of the brilliant, beautiful Leonard Cohen song, "Suzanne," was powerfully moving. I am now a Nesbo fan, and look forward to dusting off his books on my shelf.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2014 2:47 PM PDT

The Possibilities: A Novel
The Possibilities: A Novel
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.63

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let's just put one foot in front of the other", April 4, 2014
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There are as many books on grieving as there are ways to grieve. Some books, whether self-help, memoirs, or novels, have an agenda to assist the reader through the grieving process. Hemmings' novel, however, doesn't overreach, patronize, or even subtly attempt to provide lessons in grief or a helping hand. Instead, it is an engaging character study of specific people going through a universal process in very personal ways. It isn't narrated in a maudlin or elegiac voice, or expressed through histrionics. Rather, the voice is frank, natural, and entirely authentic.

It took a few chapters to settle in, because I was thrust into the story in the midst of things (in media res) rather than with a preamble or introduction. Hemmings gently reveals the recent and past history of her characters by immersing you in present day matters. Moreover, circumstances at hand hint at conduits to the future. The author is skilled at evincing a moment with a narrow lens, and then gradually expanding the scope of the story into a mature and contoured portrait.

Sarah St John is the main character. Three months ago, she lost her twenty-two year old son, Cully, in an avalanche while he was skiing in their hometown of Breckenridge, Colorado. Cully was an only child, and Sarah never married his father, although they remain on amicable terms. Her best friend, Suzanne, is a reluctant divorcée, mourning over the ex-husband she still loves. Her daughter, Morgan, was Cully's best friend.

Sarah's father retired from Breckenridge's ski resort industry last year and temporarily moved in with Sarah and Cully, but he hasn't left. He's wrestling with the tragic death of his grandson and the ennui that retirement created. Years ago, he lost a wife, Sarah's mother, when Sarah was five. He never remarried. Still handsome, in his lugubrious way, he copes with emptiness via a fixation on QVC television.

In the meantime, Sarah considers leaving her job as a co-host on "Fresh Tracks," a taped show that is aired in all the best hotels and resorts in the area. At one time she aimed to be a serious reporter, but a surprise pregnancy at twenty-one ended that, and Cully began. Right now, she's contending with uncertainty--beginnings, endings, and a tug of war in the middle. Hemmings does a stellar job of illuminating several conflicts in one scene. Suzanne longs for support, but Sarah's loss of a son competes and eclipses Suzanne's divorce. In the thick of grief, seeds of weary judgment, sharp resentment, and entitlement obtrude. And the guilt impinges.

"Guilt came for feeling hungry, for having that sensation. It came from yawning, from putting on make-up, dressing nicely. It came when I felt sexual desire...feeling so awful that...I still felt anything at all. The body just keeps going. It doesn't care what you're up to. I remember how guilty I felt for not buying him the most expensive urn."

Enter a young, enigmatic woman named Kit, who offers to shovel Sarah's driveway. Her comely youth and mien ignite a spark of generosity in both Sarah and her father, a spirited sense of congenial familiarity. As the story progresses, recovery takes a turn toward redemption. But something more than redemption, too--clarity, connection, and the balance of experience flicker; recurrence and a dynamic kinship evolve and involve all the characters. I did predict and anticipate some plot points, but the journey here is what is sublime. And, don't be so sure of the destination until you reach the end. And even then, the possibilities are endless...

"Something is breaking in me, but instead of feeling broken, I feel as if something better is building in its place."

Decoded: A Novel
Decoded: A Novel
by Jia Mai
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.71
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riddles, enigmas, and a portrait of a solitary genius, April 3, 2014
This review is from: Decoded: A Novel (Hardcover)
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DECODED, although about the life of a cryptographer, is not about the nuts and bolts of cryptography. You don't need to be interested in the application of it; rather, it is more about one man in particular, whose life brought him to this secretive, isolating practice. Rong Jinzhen is a brainiac in mathematics and also likely a man with Asperger's syndrome. Jia's novel is a portrait of this unusual individual--an introverted, focused, and solitary genius. The narrative is subtle, unsentimental, yet tender and captivating. The translation by Olivia Milburn and Christopher Payne is so smooth and nimble that it reads like English was the primary language of the novel.

The story begins in 1873 with the youngest member of the seventh generation of the wealthy, salt merchant Rong family. He is leaving the (fictional?) city of Tongzhen to study abroad, the first academic in the family. The last pages of the novel indicate it is now 2002 (when this novel was published in China). In between is a combination spy, historical, and family drama. Most importantly, it is a character study of Rong Jinzhen, born in the 1930s. The story is lyrical and literary, but also page turning and suspenseful, ripe for espionage fans and literature lovers alike.

Rong Jinzhen's life had inauspicious beginnings. His mother, Youying, an academic genius who had studied at Cambridge, died giving birth to him, and his profligate father was stabbed to death. Jinzhen was raised by an elderly European dream interpreter, Mr. Auslander, who recognized and encouraged the young boy's mathematical abilities. When Auslander died, Jinzhen was taken back into the fold of the wealthy Rong family. Jinzhen's intellectual gifts and emotional well-being are given support and stability, and he is educated at his patriarch's university.

There are 150 pages before Jinzhen is lured into the secret cryptography Unit 701. The author's detailed brushstrokes of Jinzhen paint a fully dimensional and often agonized man, who joins a group of other like-minded souls. By the time he joins the Unit, the reader has an animated, distinct profile of Jinzhen. He and his colleagues find their purpose and sanction inside the hallowed, secret life of cryptography. What vitalized the story even more was the emotional power given to the intellectual field of numbers. These professionals find comfort and solace in cryptography. The reader isn't subjected to dry and abstruse text. Rather, Jinzhen's work and the man himself are impassioned twins, a binary coupling that is both his strength and his weakness. (If there were an American cinematic example, it would be John Turturro in any number of movies where he plays a tortured genius).

Along the way, there are twists and turns, surprises in narrative form that Jia dared to execute. Part five of the novel is a collection of fragments, and, just like the riddles of cryptography, I was confronted with trying to decipher a cipher. Only an able, assured writer like Jia could persuade a reader in this direction. Not only that, I was haunted by the figure of Jinzhen even more. I wanted to penetrate the impenetrable. This is a sleeper of a novel, one that unexpectedly engulfed me and continues to corral my heart long after the last page.

The Land of Steady Habits: A Novel
The Land of Steady Habits: A Novel
by Ted Thompson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.00
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A blistering, nuanced portrait of American prosperity, March 29, 2014
The negating emptiness of a man's late middle age is examined alongside of the encroaching isolation of America's late-stage capitalism. Ted Thompson's debut novel is reminiscent of Cheever and Updike, rightly so, and his narrative, to me, was warmer and less self-conscious than Updike. Most of the novel takes place in a tony exurb of Connecticut during the Christmas holidays, as Anders Hill's life begins to unravel.

In order to support his early retirement, Anders needs to sell the house that his ex-wife, Helene, still lives in; the payments are a year overdue, his finances are stretched, and Helene is uninformed. In the meantime, his neighbor's teenage son, Charlie, is consumed with a drug habit. Anders, ignorant of this fact, is guilty of sharing a loaded pipe with him at Charlie's parent's annual party. Subsequently, Charlie passes out.

Although divorce is a frequent trope in novels--and how it changes families and children, senior life break-ups are less common. Anders asked Helene for a divorce after the sons were grown, and he was approaching sixty. Put on hold for a year after Helene was diagnosed with breast cancer, he resumed the split after she recovered from the surgery, the chemo, and the loss, and was once again cancer-free. Helene was stunned, but moved on with her life, much to the alarm of Anders, especially when she moves her new boyfriend, an old college friend, into the Connecticut house he desperately needs to sell.

Much of the novel is introspection--Anders and secondly, Helene's, but the poignant episodes that move the plot along, or reach back to the past, illuminate the deep fissures in this land of steady habits. This isn't new material, but Thompson has nuanced insight to add to the blistering cracks of American prosperity.

"Nothing was spared. It was all scorched earth."

Five Star Billionaire: A Novel
Five Star Billionaire: A Novel
by Tash Aw
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.94
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Star Story, March 28, 2014
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Shanghai, the capital of the east, is potent and mythical, like New York or London in the west. Immigrants are attracted to the glitter and hustle, the urbanity and promise of remaking themselves and securing wealth. In Tash Aw's Booker finalist novel, four Malaysians with different stories and backgrounds come to Shanghai to score their dreams. Their interconnected lives are slowly revealed over the course of the story; on the way there, I was immersed in each one as the narrative alternates back and forth with finesse and a solid momentum. This is about characters--but the main character of all is Shanghai, who subsumes and sometimes devours a person and their dreams.

Phoebe is a young village woman who comes to Shanghai full of hope and hunger. Changing her identity to Chinese and buying knock-off designer garb, she is naïve enough to believe that material wealth is deserved and attained by her desires and the absorption of numerous self-help books. Gary was an abused child who became a sensation as a Taiwanese pop star, but due to some poor public conduct, has been reduced to obscurity and singing in shopping malls. Yinghui is an above-average success in business, but lonely in her personal life. She is about to embark on an exciting business venture with the elusive billionaire, Walter Chao, who is the author of the self-help book, "Five-Star Bilionaire." Justin CK Lim is a lonely riches to rags gentleman who has become a recluse, enervated with depression. The links between all of them are disclosed in the course of the story.

Shanghai, for all its promise, can be an icy, unforgiving city. For all the earnest aspiration and optimism, there's a tint of grim foreshadowing in every chapter. There's no easy success; Shanghai provides a certainty of doubt and facile exploitation to the willing and the desperate, the lonely and determined, wherever you come from and no matter your ambitions. Aw's silky prose and strong characterizations swept me up into its dangerous charm and universal themes. Ruin and revenge, doubt and trust, integrity and dissolution, and the capriciousness of affluence inhabit the story's heart. The prospect of love in an indifferent city reaches out like a fateful redemption.

"...a mixture of excitement and apprehension that people exhibited when still new in Shanghai, in search of something, even though they could not articulate what that something was--maybe it was money, or status, or, God forbid, even love--but whatever it was, Shanghai was not about to give it to them."

Kinder Than Solitude: A Novel
Kinder Than Solitude: A Novel
by Yiyun Li
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.71
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A portrait of solitude, March 26, 2014
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In this stunning, introspective novel of loneliness and detachment, two women--Moran, and Ruyu, and one man, Boyang-- are illuminated in the months before and the decades after a tragedy. As teenagers, they banded together in their communal Beijing neighborhood. Shaoai, an outspoken dissident of the Chinese government, was poisoned, apparently an accident, in the shadow of the Tiananmen Square protests. She takes twenty years to die, although the massive deterioration begins early. Soon after this harrowing event, the three friends, in a tacit pact, drift away from one other, circumscribing their adult lives with self-imposed emotional quarantines.

The novel opens in Beijing, and seamlessly alternates in time and place between China and America. As the story examines the lives of Boyang, Moran, and Ruyu, as teens when the tragedy occurred and now as middle-aged adults, their shared parallels of solitude are probed, and the mystery of Shaoai's poisoning is gradually revealed. They haven't spoken to each other in twenty years, and all three are divorced, childless, and detached from passion and fulfillment.

Ruyu, an orphan from the provinces, is sent by her grandaunts at age 15 to live with Shaoai's parents in Beijing. They want her to get a better education. Shaoai and her friends treat Ruyu with a haughty truculence. Ruyu, however, is an inward girl, lacking social graces, a cipher to others. She is aloof, inscrutable, and privately prays to God. She doesn't seek others out, much to their frustration.

Boyang and Moran, longtime friends, reach out to Ruyu, who accepts their friendship with a general indifference. She is unused to the community spirit of her new home, where many families convene together in the shared quadrangle. Boyang is the son of wealthy college professors, who he visits on weekends; they left him to be raised by his grandmother while they pursued their ambitions. Moran is the equalizer; she is eager to nurture. For her, life was a series of ideal moments, filled with "a larger dose of joy." Unfortunately, Shaoia's poisoning leaves them all contaminated with psychic toxins. As adults, they sought out lives to subvert their memories, at the same time reeling from them.

"Those seeking sanctuary in misremembering did not separate what had happened from what could have happened."

Boyang stayed in Beijing, while Moran and Ruyu left for separate parts of America. All are locked away in prisons they have built for themselves. Boyang, divorced, is a wealthy businessman, getting by in a series of superficial relationships with younger women. Ruyu keeps herself sequestered in a restrained life as an underachiever. Moran, working for a pharmaceutical company in Massachusetts, still keeps in touch with her ex-husband, but divorced him in order to maintain an emotional void. And yet,

"She was afraid of meeting another person like her, but more than that she was afraid of never meeting another person like her, who, however briefly, would look into her eyes so that she knew she was not alone in her loneliness."

Li's measured narrative combines finely calibrated characters and elegant, elegiac prose. The tone evoked a grey chill, but not entirely bleak. There was a haze of something brighter around the edges of the story--a wish for redemption and forgiveness. There was sympathy for their guarded enclosures, like a sweet spot buried under their memories and their isolation.

"To know the world, for a child, is to ask questions, but the situation leading to those questions, once answered, are forgotten; having garnered enough knowledge, one enters adulthood only to be confronted by more questions, which, no longer answerable, form the context of one's being."
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2014 7:26 AM PDT

Strathwood Barnes Aluminum Sling Chair, Set of 2
Strathwood Barnes Aluminum Sling Chair, Set of 2
Price: $114.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superior comfort and construction, March 22, 2014
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I've never owned such rustic, elegant, sublime outdoor chairs, none like these. I was expecting some decent furniture, but this is the first time I've ever been excited about chairs. Besides the understated, clean, immaculate construction, these chairs are as comfortable as a bed of roses (no thorns). Whether you are petite, like me, or a towering 6'4", 300 lbs, this chair will support your back, bottom, and legs. The chair is surprisingly deep, wide, and will support any body type. I hail these chairs, and almost want them in my sitting room. They are worth every penny; you will be impressed and satisfied.

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