On this drizzly, overcast Thanksgiving Monday, I am thinking about what I have to be thankful for related to books and reading. Of course, I have many other things to be thankful for, too, like my husband and my cats, my awesome job, good friends, good fortune, etc., but here is not the place to talk about those things. First and foremost, as I sip my delicious cup of Chai, I am thankful for the rainy overcast day we’re having today. If it was as gorgeous and sunny outside today as it has been the past two days, I certainly wouldn’t be as willing to stay inside and write a post then finish my book as I am with this weather forecast.
OK, I’m thankful for my good friend, Dan, who has been instrumental in recommending books to me over the past 25 years. He was the person who recommended, among others, Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald, which is one of my favourite books. Sure, I probably could have found this book on my own, but there are lots of great books, even great books by Canadian authors, that I have not yet read, and possibly never will read. He also recommended, more recently, Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord. I haven’t yet read the book, but I just went to see the film adaptation on the weekend, and it was very enjoyable. I’m looking forward to having time to read the book soon. So, if you’re reading this blog (and I know you are!), thanks Dan! I wouldn’t be the reader I am without you!
The next thing I’m thankful for is my membership on the book selection committee I’ve been part of for the past 3 years. We focus on recently published adult Canadian fiction and non-fiction, and for this committee, I have read many titles I would otherwise not have even been aware of, let alone read. Some of these titles are: Three Souls by Janie Chang, My Real Children by Jo Walton, All My Puny Sorrows by Marian Toews, Local Customs by Audry Thomas and Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu. I have posted about all of these titles previously, so will not recap, but they are all books I’m glad I read. I am also glad I read Interference by Winnipeg author Michelle Berry. This book is the multilayered story of a small neighbourhood in Parkville, its interconnected stories relaying the goings-on of different households. In one household, Claire is dealing with breast cancer treatment, while also trying to hold her family together. Her husband may be suffering from the onset of dementia, and her son may be in love with his girlfriend’s brother. Across the street is blond, attractive Dayton, who has stolen her daughter and fled California to escape her ne’er-do-well husband, and who finds release in the Ladies’ Senior Hockey League. Next door is Trish, who makes custom teddy bears, and is being threatened by a large American teddy-bear-making company for infringing on copyright laws. And next to Trish is Maria, whose own pre-teen daughter is suffering from obsessive cleaning and fear of germs and dirt, similar to her mother’s own obsession. Maria also suffers from a bad back, which keeps her from doing many of the things she thinks she enjoys, but really this reader suspects that she has never really been happy with her life. Her husband, meanwhile, is suddenly and inexplicably flirting with every woman he sees, something he has not done since before he met Maria. On top of all these household dramas, there are some shady figures that lurk around the neighbourhood and flit in and out of the stories, a man with a prominent scar cutting through the centre of his face, and a small man in a brown suit who goes door-to-door distributing pamphlets of a disturbing nature. There is a sinister element underlying these stories as suspicions of a paedophile ring circulate, and, because they are told from the point of view of various people in the neighbourhood, reading this book was a bit like peeping in through the keyhole of each household and watching the goings-on, making this reader feel somewhat voyeuristic. It was a really interesting read, quite unlike anything else I have read… not really short stories, but not really a novel either. Now that I think of it, I have read something else like this in the past, a book I reviewed for the local paper called Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway, which was also made up of interwoven short-story-like chapters told from various points of view, where nothing is quite clear, including a defined plot. Anyway, it was a good read, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys domestic fiction with characters that are very “real”, characters that could be your own neighbours.
I am also thankful for the opportunity I have to review books for the local paper, as this, too, has exposed me to titles I may not otherwise have come across. Some of these titles include Dinosaur Feather by Sissel-Jo Gazan, The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, That Part was True by Deborah McKinlay, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker and Life or Death by Michael Robotham. These, too, have been written about in previous posts. I am also just finishing a book that I will review called Sad Peninsula by Mark Sampson. This novel tells the alternating stories of Eun-young and Michael, characters separated by decades but brought together by one woman on a quest to find a way to reveal the truth and make things right. Eun-young was a young girl in the late 1930s in Korea, when the Japanese infiltrated her town. With promises of a job earning more than her own father, enough to get her family out of the poverty into which they sunk since the infiltration, Eun-young, along with thousands of other girls, were coerced from their homes and transported north to China, where they were forced to live in camps as “comfort women”, sex slaves who were made to serve the often debauched needs of service men and officials of every rank during the war. Michael is an ESL teacher at ABC English Planet in Seoul. A disgraced journalist from Halifax, hiding from his own demons and fleeing from his past, he finds anonymity in South Korea, but is disturbed by the stereotypical view of the country, from the beautiful girls and easy sex to the loose standards of the English school where “teachers” of dubious qualifications “sling English like hamburgers”. Then he meets Jin, a girl unlike the others, a smart, serious young woman with secrets of her own. While they struggle to develop a strong relationship, they also keep much of their pasts to themselves. When in Jin tells Michael about her great-aunt, Eun-young, Michael is intrigued to find out more, but uncovers some things that both horrify and inspire him. I am about two-third of the way through the book, and expect to finish it this afternoon, but so far both stories are interesting, albeit graphically detailed at times. This is the second book by Sampson, originally from PEI but now living in Toronto, but the first I have read.
I am thankful for so any other things that are book-related as well, but I’m out of time, and want to get on with my day, so perhaps I will save them for another post.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Bye for now…Julie