Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Books, Books, Books

 The Swimmers, Julie Otsuka

I struggled in the beginning to engage with this book. Otsuka narrated in the third person plural as she had in her first two books so it seemed kind of formulaic. I swam a mile before work for years and never connected with any of the other swimmers, so I didn’t get it and I just about gave up, until I realized this was Alice’s book, her story, and then I couldn’t read fast enough. I’m of an age where mothers are requiring memory care units and I have never read such a personal description of what one of those facilities is like, for the resident, for the family. Deeply moving.

Love and Saffron:  a novel of love, food and friedship.  Kim Fay

This slight volume is a tale of friendship told in alternating voices by the exchange of letters, beginning October 1962. Mrs. Imogen Fortier has written a monthly column for ten years about life in the Pacific Northwest which appears in the Northwest Home & Life magazine

Joan Bergstrom writes from her home in Los Angeles to congratulate her on her 10th year anniversary of the column and to let her know what an avid reader she is. Though she is 27 years old and Immy is 59, they become fast friends as the miles and the years between them evaporate. They challenge each other to explore foreign cuisines, share their feelings and recommend books.

Set in Seattle and Los Angeles in the early 1960s, the story unfolds against the backdrop of current events. They experience life in a slower pace, one we forget about, like driving into the city to see if the favorite bookstore has a book and then order it - no online, no Amazon! To say more would spoil the way the author slowly reels us in. I read it in one sitting, which the author had wanted readers to do. It’s like a satisfying meal.

With Love from London:  Sarah Jio
I loved this book from the very beginning and was delighted to enjoy it all the way through to the end. I found myself reflecting on Laila Lailani’s book, Conditional Citizens where she talks about groups whose rights are not guaranteed, one of those groups being women. Frank was powerful and wealthy and against him, Eloise was powerless to defend herself or her rights.

The story is a result of Frank’s actions told in alternating voices of Eloise and Valentina, with some romance here and there. Eloise willed her interest in her book store to Valentina and prepared a treasure hunt to help her daughter get to know her. I just finished reading on this snowy day, perfect reading weather. Valentina would approve.

What the Fireflies Knew.  Kai Harris
This is a coming-of-age story about a ten-year-old Black girl named Kenyatta Bernice or KB for short. She has lived all her life in Detroit with her mother, father and 14-year-old sister named Nia. Life has been good until shortly before her 11th birthday KB’s father dies, they lose the house and have to move into a rundown motel. In a desperate move, Mama takes the girls to live with her father, Granddaddy, in Lansing, Michigan, two hours from her home. KB and Nia are constantly at each other’s throats and when KB tries to make friends with the two White kids who live across the street encounters racism for the first time in her life.

Granddaddy doesn’t appear to want the girls and seems ill equipped to take care of them, yet he grows to the task and he grew on me. KB struggles to negotiate the difficult and awkward situations that keep popping up, and she meets family that she never knew she had who are indifferent to her. She remembered what her Momma told her, “In life, we’re going to get hurt. If we stay focused on that hurt, and nothing else, then we won’t ever be able to heal. But if we focus on the healing, well, then we’ll start to notice that hurt disappear.”

I appreciate the author’s sympathetic portrayal of these lives in such a way that I am invested and care deeply what happens to this family. I couldn’t stop reading and because I was on my Kindle, couldn’t fall asleep until after 2:00. It’s that kind of book.