A Coming-To-America-To-Make-A-Better-Life-for-Oneself-Story: A GOOD AMERICAN by Alex George

I love immigrants-in-search-of-a-new-life stories! This one by Alex George, published in 2012 begins in 1904 and narrates the story of three generations (generational, family stories being another of my favorites) and tells the sweep-you-away love story of Frederick and Jette. Young lovers, they discover that Jette is pregnant and must flee the wrath and disappointment of her mother and family and make a married life for themselves in America. They intend to live in New York, but only have enough passage money to book for New Orleans, and through mishaps and misunderstandings in communication, end up starting their new life in Beatrice, Missouri, a fictional town in a very real county in Missouri.

The story is narrated by their grandson, James. Near the end of the book, James uncovers a family secret that rocks his world and reveals his true identity. It is a “sweeping” story that explores a love of music ranging from Puccini to Barbershop quartets, so popular in America in the 1900’s. It deals with family expectations and the consequences when one does not live up to them, expressed throughout three generations.

There are many memorable characters, of whom Jette was my favorite, both as a young spunky girl and as an old, strong matriarch of an impressive family. In A Good American, “Each new generation discovers what it means to be an American,” and each generation strives to be what Frederick  adopted as his major life’s goal, to be a good American.

TUESDAY TEASER

This meme was originated/hosted by the Purple Booker, and first came to my attention as I followed my good blogging friend on Brainfluff.  Both are blogs worth checking out. LET’S GET SOME PARTICIPATION HERE!

Find a couple sentences from what you are currently reading to tease others into wanting to read the same book.  Scroll down and in the comments/reply box type in the “teaser”, being sure to give the book and the author as well.  Please no surprise endings or “spoilers.”

Here is mine for this week:

From The Address by Fiona Davis, a second time novelist, lifelong journalist and friend whose debut novel was The Dollhouse a mystery about the Barbizon hotel in New Work. (see previous review/type the title into the blog search box). This second novel is set at The Dakota, the building where John Lennon of the Beatles was shot.  Both novels alternate chapters from the New York buildings’ pasts with current or recent scenes where one of the characters discovers and writes about a mystery in the buildings’ pasts.  Both novels are well researched and are fascinating reads that will keep you turning pages.

It comes out August first this year, and I have a signed, advance copy brought to me by good friend and fellow blogger, Debbie Nance of Readerbuzz.

Teaser: Two cousins, one who has recently lost her job, meet at the Cafe Luxembourg in New York. Bailey, the one just fired is meeting Melinda, the “successful,” beautiful, talented cousin.

“…Melinda wasn’t here yet, so Bailey took a booth seat where she had a good view of the door. It wasn’t long before Melinda swept in wearing a jump suit with enormous shoulder pads, her blonde hair in perfect swirls down her back, as if she walked in a bubble that protected her from the humidity…she threw the Barney’s bag she was carrying on the floor and held out her arms.”

“Cousin!” [Here was Melinda, Bailey’s] “last hope.”

Please feel free to tease me into adding yet another book to my TBR list and shelf!

 

 

SETTING FREE THE KITES by Alex George: A Review

This 2017 novel, available in large print at the Alvin Public Library, was an “impulse pick up” displayed at the library much like the impulse buys at the grocery store. My biggest compliment to the author is that the characterization (which I read for, more than plot) was outstanding. The story was set in Haverford, Maine and begins in 1976 when the narrator , Robert Carter, was attending Longfellow Middle School.

Like most middle schools, Longfellow had its bullies, specifically Hollis Calhoun, whose main purpose in life was to make Robert’s life miserable. Enter on the scene, the “new boy,” Nathan Tilly, who although small in stature, confronts Hollis and rescues Robert.  From there, a friendship is formed that supersedes Robert’s older brother’s disability and Nathan’s loss of his father shortly after moving to town. Robert’s part in this terrible accident, leaving Faye, Nathan’s mother unhinged and unhappy, is the complexity of plot and human emotion that evolves as the novel progresses. Robert is Nathan/Gatsby’s, Nick/ the narrator, as we meet the true main character, Nathan, who is described by critics as “confident, fearless,impetetous–and fascinated by kites and flying” with a “boundless capacity for optimism.”  Yes, the novel is filled with tragedies–some small, some huge–but the indomitable ability of human nature to “cope” comes through loud and clearly.

The book deals with “truths about family, desire and revenge”. Surprises come every time the reader “turns a corner.” Many are hilarious; others are sad, and some cause warm and fuzzy feelings on the part of the reader. Kites has a satisfying ending, the dialog is spot-on, and the entire book is laugh-out-loud funny.  I read it in a day and a half. I couldn’t put it down.

 

Who Is the Human? Sam, Fred, Dylax: A Review of a Sci-Fi Novel

Gary Pegoda’s novel begins with a question posed on the title page: “If computers were human in every way, would it be human? How would you know?” In this day of messing around with IA, it is a question to be considered. The first character we meet is Sam, “I am Sam, the Star Bright Machine…” a computer activated in 2020 who is, in its/his own words, “intelligent,” and “conscious” although he/it is a quantum computer in reality. The second character we meet is Fred, who is escaping from Sam, in a series of fast-paced, action-filled escapes and near-escapes as Fred tries to decide whether he, Fred, is a human or a figment of Sam’s creation and imagination. When Dylax, who speaks strangely and is a bit hard to follow until one gets used to her disjointed, out-of-syntax speech, comes on the scene, she is the love-match for Fred, and the sex is out-of-this-world (pun intended).

Although the story is puzzling at times (I believe that is the author’s intention), the twists and turns keep readers turning the pages to see what happens next.  Oftentimes it is another beating, another capture, another operation to implant or take out implants on poor Fred.

Fortunately, the novel has a very satisfying ending, leaving it open for a sequel, which I hope the author will write.  I for one will follow these fascinating characters and their lives/existences.

BEFORE WE VISIT THE GODDESS by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: A REVIEW

This 2016 publication particularly appealed to me because I had read Divakaruni’s One Amazing Thing and because I knew she was a professor of Creative Writing at The University of Houston, not only my alma mater, but also one of the five campuses in the system that employs me. She has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, so I was aware of her writing prowess going in to this novel. It deals with four generations of women and the ins and outs of mother daughter relationships.

The setting ranges from Bengal, India to Houston, Texas, another selling point for me. Basically it is the story of Sabritri, daughter of the village sweets maker, Durga; Sabritri’s daughter Bella; and her daughter Tara. The novel explores many different forms and kinds of love, love that reaches across generations. All of the women are strong female characters, all finely developed and drawn. The novel opens with a letter which Sabritri is writing at Bela’s request to her granddaughter, Tara. The letter and its significance surfaces at the end of the novel where all is revealed, all suppressed emotions let out, all misconceptions straightened out, all family mysteries solved.  All in all it is a most satisfactory ending. The plot moves us through estrangements and reconciliations as it twists and turns, masterfully allowing us to feel what the characters are feeling.

This author is a supreme storyteller, a fine characterization master, and a very readable author.  This is one I stayed up late to finish.

TUESDAY TEASER

Grab what you are reading now, turn to where you left off, and copy a few sentences below. Maybe you will tease someone else to read the same book. Don’t forget to give the title and the author.  Here’s my Tuesday Teaser from Harlan Coben’s One False Move:

“…Brenda will be here in a couple of minutes …Then you hit her with the Bolitar charm.”

“Myron arched one eyebrow. “Set on full blast?’

“Heavens no, I don’t want the poor girl disrobing.”

This book is a Myron Bolitar novel, a mystery in an excellent series. My Better Half recommended this particular one saying it was the “best so far.”  That is high praise.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA: A Review

This 1997 novel, on the NY Times Best Seller List for over a year, gives the perfect women’s point of view on a Japanese women’s institution, surprisingly written by a man, Arthur Golden. It was researched very thoroughly and is a PWR selection for this quarter.  It is sexy, expressed in a most polite Japanese way, and described by reviews of its day as “astonishing,” “breathtaking,” a “literary sensation”, “seductive,” and “an exotic fable.”  If it isn’t considered a classic, it should be.

The novel recounts the story of Sayrui, a fictional famous geisha, probably a composite of several famous geisha of Japan’s past. Born in a tiny, poor, fishing village, Chiyo ( her first name as a servant in the geisha house she is sold to by her father)/ Sayrui’s life reflects the difference between the life of a geisha and the life of a prostitute. Hatsumomo, a famous geisha of the same house is her nemesis, insanely jealous and revengeful motivated by feelings of jealousy, fear, insecurity, and mean-spiritedness. Chiyo’s only friend, Pumpkin, eventually betrays Chiyo/Sayrui, making Mamha’s job as Sayrui’s mentor/”Big Sister” all the harder.

Of course it is a romance, but much much more than that.  There is a well-described picture of Japanese life both before and after the WWII bombings. Sayrui’s life goes from rags to riches to rags again to…I’ll let you read the end of the story. The underlying theme of the book deals with how a woman’s life and destiny depended on a man. It is a worthwhile investment of your precious reading time that will keep you turning pages into the wee hours.