Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#6: Girl in Translation (Jean Kwok)

Having lunch today with my family, I realized I had to post this review so I could stay in the hunt for reading the most books this year!  (I’m gunning for you, Brauer!)

I’m hooked on audio books at the moment. They are so convenient and make the driving pass a lot quicker. Girl in Translation is the story of Kim, a young Chinese immigrant who is working through the American education system while struggling to learn the English language.  She and her mother labor in a garment factory (that is managed by her witch-of-an-aunt), earn one penny per article of clothing, and live in a roach-infested apartment in New York City. Despite the horrible circumstances, Kim proves to be an outstanding student and excels beyond all expectation.

I’m always fascinated by education stories. Once you mix in a look at dating, honor, and family from a Chinese perspective, Girl in Translation was definitely an intriguing novel. It wasn’t my favorite book of the year — largely due to the scratched CDs and my initial difficulty in understanding the reader’s use of accents — but it was still a read that I enjoyed and would recommend to others.

The theme of family seems to be running through my reading at the moment as well. It’s a major theme in what I hope will be my next post later this week:  The Light Between Oceans.

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#5: Home Front (Kristin Hannah)

The great books keep rolling along for me! This week, I “read” another audio book to pass the time on the road.  Home Front is the story of Jolene, an Army National Guard reservist who is passionate about flying Black Hawks and caring for her two daughters. Sadly, her marriage has hit a bit of turbulence and her husband has asked for a divorce because “he doesn’t love her anymore.” When Jolene finds herself deployed to Iraq, the family’s entire world is turned upside down.

A large portion of the novel focuses on Dad caring for the home front while Mom is away serving her country. As the number of flights increase for Jolene, the situation becomes more and more dangerous until her Black Hawk is shot down. The result is that Jolene loses her right leg.

When the “soldier girl” returns home, she struggles with the strains the war has placed on her as well as her extended family. Jolene fights through the difficulty of PT and watches helplessly as her daughters attempt to understand the woman who has returned in their mother’s stead.

Home Front is a beautifully told story that is especially riveting due to Hannah’s ability to give a personal face to the Iraq War. In addition to the central story, the novel explores the effects of PTSD on American soldiers and the government’s care for our soldiers returning home while exploring the definitions of family and honor. It was a worth-while excursion into uncomfortable territory that I am glad I took.

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#4: The Next Best Thing (Jennifer Weiner)

Sickness and lots of rehearsals for the Britten festival at Union University have eaten into my time for reading for pleasure. Rather than getting TOO far off of my pace, I decided to pass the many miles of traveling back and forth to Jackson with this year’s first audio book.

The Next Best Thing is the story of a young lady and her grandmother who leave the familiar world of Boston to pursue a television career in Hollywood. Ruth Sanders’ life has been anything but easy. Her parents were killed in a car accident early in her life; she continues to deal with the emotional and physical scars from the tragic night. Her grandmother has become her closest friend and trusted confidant. To honor their relationship, Ruth pitches a television series based upon their adventures: The Next Best Thing.

Following the trials of producing a television serial, Weiner lovingly addresses the issues faced by a young woman who is haunted by her physical appearance. The novel is filled with authentic emotion as well as humor. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of Ruth’s non-traditional “knight in shining armor” – a paralyzed man fighting his own demons from his wheelchair.

The Next Best Thing is probably a book that I would have passed over if I encountered it in the library. Given the limited availability of audio books at the moment I needed one, I took a chance. I’m glad I did and enjoyed my time in Hollywood with Ruth and her Nana!

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