This beautiful historical novel is set in an exotic place, rural Malaya, after World War II before it became the country of Malaysia. It’s also one of the rare novels that is centered on a Japanese garden.
The narrator, Teoh Jun Ling, a woman of Straits Chinese heritage, has just retired from her career judging war criminal cases. Previous to that, she was a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp. In fact, she was the only person to survive; after being tortured there, she developed a great hatred for all things Japanese. Yet her dear sister, Yun Hong, who died at camp, always had a passion for Japanese gardens after she had visited the island nation as a child.
Yun Ling returns to the highlands to see old friends and also to visit the tea plantation of Yugiri where an ex-Japanese, Aritomo, has long worked a spectacular garden. Although she is repulsed at asking a favor from someone Japanese, she requests that Aritomo build a Japanese garden in her sister’s memory.
Think your childhood was non-mainstream? A little kooky? Perhaps on the bizarre side? Well check out the hand Josh Safran was dealt being born in the early 70s in a commune in San Francisco during the height of Flower Power and the counter-culture.
Safran makes his childhood—first in city communes; later in remote cabins in the mountain wilderness actually sound happy. Credit his mother, Claudia, for that. Highly intelligent, emotionally warm, full of passion for political change and hope for a just world, Claudia imparted to Josh many values. Yet, she also barely kept food on his plate and never gave him a beautiful home. In fact for one three month period, they lived in a visqueen shelter on tree stumps in a rain forest. Yet these are failings of poverty not intent. Much worse were allowing her lovers to abuse him and to threaten them both by driving under the influence of alcohol on icy mountain roads, often in the dark.
The book is sad, poignant, funny, and a surprising page turner from beginning to end. Check out this hook of an opening sentence “By the time I was ten, I had hitchhiked thousands of miles and befriended hundreds of remarkably strange people.” Here’s a short list of them: Crazy John, Uncle Tony (no blood relation), conniving Bob, deal-making Read more about Hippie Child: How a Young Boy Helped Parent his New-Age Mom
In this 17th Jack Reacher novel, Child gives his antihero some things to think about. He is on his way to D. C. to take Major Susan Turner to dinner, a first. When he arrives, she is in the brig and he is arrested on trumped up charges. In Jack Reacher style, they break out and head cross country to clear their names. Meanwhile a woman from his past is suing him for child support for his alleged daughter.
Lee Child’s novels can be described as bleak, edgy, suspenseful, fast paced with complex plots and violent action. His hero, Jack Reacher, can be described as an introspective loner, tough and macho, but with a strong moral code. The following authors have similar heroes. Try some of these series’ while you wait for Reacher.
October seems like the perfect time of year for dark, mysterious and brooding books. But I am still holding on to September! Something light might just be the ticket before the dark fall reads.
New release Still Foolin’ 'em by Billy Crystal has cracked into the top of the New York Times best seller list. After recently turning 65, Crystal tries to relate to the other millions of baby boomers who are also at or near this milestone often by portraying physical ailments through the lens of appealing humor. He also explores his long career starting off with stand up in New York to some beloved movies and stints on Saturday Night Live and hosting the Oscars. Crystal isn’t afraid to tackle serious issues, but also presents us with a belly laugh at a life well lived. There are numerous holds on the Crystal book, so while you are waiting for this book to come in you might want to try these other humorous memoirs. Read more about Comedy Memoirs for the Boomer Generation
If you like short stories don’t skip this new collection, Bobcat. Rebecca Lee’s stories about architects, matchmakers, academics, depressed children, a writer’s spouse, and student plagiarists are absorbing and continually offer fresh surprises. Lee writes fluid yet beautiful prose that cuts immediately to the chase.
In the story “Min,” the title character’s father, Albert, works in Hong Kong to resettle Vietnamese refugees for the UN. One summer Min invites his college friend to visit Asia with him for the summer. Although they are close friends, Min and Sarah are not in love.
While there, Sarah discovers that the promised job that Albert has chosen for her is to find Min a wife. Sarah’s only training is to read the notes Albert’s mother left when she selected her own son’s bride. Here are a couple examples: “Possibility—Midnight black hair, walk is like a leopard, carnal desires strong,” and “Monkey woman, scurries through the day, loves confusion.” Read more about Bobcat and Other Stories
What a beautiful collection Gregory Orr’s tenth book of poetry is--moving, lyrical, concise, thought-provoking and full of a rich humanity. Orr has had a difficult life. As he describes in one poem, he accidentally shot his brother in a hunting accident as a child and his mother died a few months later. He doesn’t say from heartache but that is implied.
The book is divided into three sections. The first “Eden and After” offers an overabundance of infinitive titles including: “To Speak,” “To See,” “To Write,” “To Embrace,” “To Stray,” and a couple I can’t mention here. The poems are much deeper and broader than the titles might imply. And yes, they are about Adam and Eve’s time in the Garden of Eden and their later fall as these lines from “To Build” reveal: “No longer could they rest / Each night inside / God’s breath / As in a tent that kept / Them from the cold.”
The second section is more literary. It’s called “The City of Poetry.” Individual poets are mentioned including: Francois Villon, Coleridge, /Rimbaud, Sappho, etc. but it’s more a praise song to poetry itself: “There’s only one river / That flows / Through the city / But different poems / Call it different names.” Read more about River Inside the River