Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There is no wrong time to curl up with a good book

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

Publishers Weekly


Meredith and Connie's lifelong friendship broke apart three years ago, but their grief brings them back together in Hilderbrand's absorbing latest (after The Island). Connie is profoundly lonely following her husband's death and the estrangement from her daughter. Meanwhile, Meredith's husband's investment firm has been revealed as a Ponzi scheme, and the ensuing investigation has, in a very Ruth Madoff like way, separated her from the life she's known. The women retreat to Connie's Nantucket home, where they repair their relationships and their own broken hearts while a series of threatening events keeps Meredith in hiding. Though Meredith's guilty feelings about missing clues to her husband's dishonesty are overwhelming, the kindness shown by people who support her—including Connie's tentative new flame—encourages her to make good where she can. Much of the novel is told in flashback as Connie and Meredith work through their crises, but Hilderbrand's talents keep those memories as resonant as the present day. Longtime fans and newcomers alike will delight in this timely, touching story of loss, love, friendship, and forgiveness.








Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares


Publishers Weekly


Brashares revives the Traveling Pants sisterhood for a bittersweet victory lap that finds the sisters grown up and pretty much out of contact until Tibby, who now lives in Australia, proposes a reunion in Greece, where Lena has a family home and a lost love, Kostos. But what begins as a great idea turns tragic when Tibby drowns and letters she left behind hint it may not have been an accident. Brashares creates a sensitive panorama of grief in following how the friends react to loss: Carmen, now a television actress, throws herself into planning her expensive wedding, though she doesn't really connect with her icy fiancé. Bridget leaves her boyfriend to travel around California. Loner Lena reaches out to Kostos in a long-shot effort to rekindle what they had. And while each fears their friendship won't survive the distance between them or Tibby's death, they remain in one another's thoughts, even if they don't interact for most of the novel. Brashares freshens the well-worn tropes of chasing hopeless love and being honest with yourself with a prose that surprises despite its straightforward tone ("Effie wouldn't leave her alone. She would crawl into Lena's precious quiet like a tapeworm"). Series fans might be dismayed that the sisterhood's broken up, but Brashares proves that, even in death, this series has plenty of life left in it.









Dreams of Joy by Lisa See


Kirkus Reviews


In this sequel to See's bestselling Shanghai Girls (2009, etc.), a daughter's flight leads to further family upheavals against the backdrop of Mao Tse-Tung's Great Leap Forward.


Twenty years have passed since Pearl and May Chin left war-torn Shanghai for California, to fulfill the marriage contracts their bankrupt gambler father had arranged.Now, Pearl's daughter Joy has impulsively immigrated to China to seek her birth father Z.G., who once painted the youthful Pearl and May for "Beautiful Girl" advertisements. Z.G. is not hard to locate—he is now the New Society's highest-ranking propaganda artist.But he has fallen into disfavor and is being sent to a peasant commune, Green Dragon Village, to reform his bourgeois aesthetic.Joy accompanies him to Green Dragon, excited at the prospect of living the communist ideals that so enthralled her as a University of Chicago student.For a while, the system works: Women are liberated from household drudgery, childcare and cooking (meals are provided by a canteen), crops are plentiful and people are being encouraged to have large families to augment the workforce. Z.G. returns to Shanghai, but Joy, who has married local peasant Tao, remains behind (she'll regret her marriage immediately after a wedding night spent in a crowded, two-room shack). However, soon the Great Leap Forward, thanks to several wrongheaded strategies (among them, plowing broken glass into the fields, overplanting wheat and a war on sparrows which wreaks environmental havoc), leads to nationwide famine.The once tranquil commune is now riven by strife.Under the rule of a corrupt party official who keeps all the food for himself, starving villagers resort to mob violence and cannibalism. Meanwhile, Pearl has arrived in Shanghai and is living in uneasy community with her father's former tenants and working as a street sweeper while she plots to rescue Joy and her new granddaughter.


Although the ending betrays See's roots in genre fiction, this is a riveting, meticulously researched depiction of one of the world's worst human-engineered catastrophes.




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