Monday, October 19, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry

by Audrey Niffenegger

We begin with a death. Elspeth Noble is dead and leaves her two twin nieces, Valentina and Julia, her flat in London with the stipulation that her sister and twin, Edie, and her husband are not allowed in the flat and the twins have to live there for a year before they can sell it. Other tenants of the building await the twins' arrival: Elspeth's lover, Robert, lives in the flat below hers and is anxious to meet the two girls whom he has never met. Martin, a severe OCD case, and his wife Marjke live in the flat above and were friends with Robert and Elspeth.

What seems like an ordinary story takes a turn towards the paranormal when the reader is introduced again to Elspeth, this time as a ghost living in her flat, unseen (at first) to her two inheritors. There is mystery surrounding Elspeth's and Edie's relationship - as in what caused the rift in the sisters' relationship. The answer to which is kept in a diary in Robert's flat.

The story becomes more intriguing when Elspeth is able to communicate with the twins and as the twins develop relationships with the other tenants that knew Elspeth. Though the motivation for a secret plan hatching between one twin and the ghost seems unrealistic, it makes for a good story and will hopefully have you reading till the last page.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ten Thousand Sorrows

by Elizabeth Kim

Out of the frying pan and into the fire... that sums up life for this Korean war orphan. A product of an American soldier's conquest, this young child and her mother are shunned by their Korean families and neighbors. They form a tight union of mother and daughter, alone in a world that views them as nonpersons, not worthy of existence. One fateful night, her mother is killed in an act of "honor" by her extended family to cleanse the family blood of her shame, leaving the young girl an orphan.

She spends a brief, though terrifying, sojourn in an orphanage where the children are kept in dirty cages, dying of sickness and malnutrition. She is adopted, though her relief is short-lived, by an Fundamentalist Christian couple and brought to America. Elizabeth (as the couple names her) leaves one life of fear to another. The couple's radical Christian beliefs manifests into abusive behavior that creates an environment of shame and terror.

Only through the birth of her daughter, Lee, is Elizabeth able to confront the horrors that she experienced as a child. An autobiography of hope despite seemingly insurmountable odds and the power of mother-love.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine

A serious graphic novel about relationships, and the false impressions that can destroy them.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

When You are Engulfed in Flames

by David Sedaris (audiobook)

Back again from the author of Me Talk Pretty One Day, Sedaris' book of comical and insightful essays had me in stitches. I found myself laughing out loud at his descriptions of people and events. His boyfriend Hugh's habit of losing him anytime they walk anywhere. The woman who kept a babyfood jar filled with water and old cigarette butts that she sniffed anytime she thought about taking up smoking again. His sister quizzing him on his Japanese, asking, "Do you know how to say, 'My sister and I went to see a movie with a dragon in it' " though it wasn't on the index cards. Keeping a giant spider as a pet and feeding it live flies for entertainment.

Though sometimes foul (a disclamer for sensitive types), it is utterly hilarious and laugh out loud funny.