It is truly summer now, after the Summer Solstice yesterday, and the weather this morning definitely attests to this. It is perfect, not too hot, no humidity, sunny, blue skies with just a few fluffy white clouds and a bit of a breeze… If every day was like this, I would be a summer person for sure.
If you recall last week in my post, I was struggling to find a book that would capture my attention, and had tried a few that just didn’t do it for me. Well, I did luck out almost immediately after posting my last entry with an excellent debut novel by Canadian writer Janie Chang called Three Souls. This novel opens with a young woman, Leiyin, observing a funeral from above. When she realizes that the name of the deceased carved into the ancestral name tablet is her own, she is momentarily shocked. This shock is quickly replaced by wonder as she attempts to figure out why she has not crossed over into the afterlife. She then recognizes the three figures across from her as her three souls, yin, yang, and hun. Her yin soul is impulsive and romantic, her yang soul is stern and disapproving, and her hun soul is wise and just. Together they must help Leiyin recollect her life and determine where she has made her misjudgments and for what choices and actions she needs to atone in order to leave the earth. They then proceed to examine her life in detail, beginning when she is just seventeen years old, offering judgment and advice, compassion and guidance at every step of the journey to the moment of her death. I will describe the story in more detail when I finish the novel – I’m about halfway through the 400+ pages now – but it has totally engaged for me and I can’t wait to get back to it.
And I’m nearly finished listening to a fabulous audiobook by Chris Pavone entitled The Expats. Set mainly in Luxembourg, this spy thriller is told from the point of view of Kate Moore, a woman who gives up her 15-year career in Washington to move to Europe with her husband, Dexter, and their two children, Jake and Ben, while Dexter pursues an opportunity to fulfill a lucrative one-year contract in banking security. Kate thinks Dexter has been working in internet banking security, and Dexter thinks Kate has had a career with the State Department writing proposals. The suspense of the story is built on the fact that neither spouse really knows the truth about what the other is doing. In Kate’s opinion, Dexter is straightforward and readable, with no mystery about him whatsoever, which is why she chose to marry him, since her own life has been made up of layer upon layer of lies and secrecy. Only when she discovers that Dexter, too, has his own secrets does she start to doubt her notions of their life together and to call into question everything she has believed for the past ten years. As things begin to unravel and the couple has to make sudden yet life-altering decisions, they reveal more of their own truths to each other while they attempt to maintain their lives together as a couple and as a family. I’m nearly finished listening to this novel, which involves the FBI and the CIA, and it is keeping me on the edge of my bus seat as I look for more listening opportunities. It is not necessarily fast-paced, although there are some parts that are nail-bitingly tense. In fact, it often focusses on the details of daily life for Americans abroad, but it manages to be intriguing because this American abroad is suspicious of everyone. It meshes mundane details like how to fill the day in a foreign city with coffee dates and shopping for bathtub cleaning items with information about the design of windows in Luxembourg and how easily Kate can break into Dexter’s office coming in from the window ledge and opening such a window from the outside without alerting anyone to her presence. This technique reminds me of John Le Carré, in that Le Carré also explores the real humdrum nature of the lives of spies. Not sure if this author has published other books, but I will definitely find out and read or listen to them if they are available. I would highly recommend this title to anyone who enjoys well-written and intriguing espionage thrillers.
That’s all for today. Stop reading and get outside!
Bye for now…