Sunday, May 21, 2017

Inheritance From Mother, by Minae Mizumura. 2012; Other Press English translation 2016



 
The Katsura sisters have long had an embattled relationship with their mother. Noriko Katsura, is an egotistical and selfish woman with a taste for the finer things in life, and little, if any, feelings for people. The sisters dream of the day when their mother will finally die, and her demands on them will stop.

This sounds horrible, especially in a society where children are expected to love, revere, and care selflessly for their parents. But for Mitsuki, the daughter on whom the majority of the burden falls on, it’s a chance to finally live her own life. As a child, she was neglected in favor of Natsuki, her more beautiful and talented sister. As an adult, her life is pretty much run by her husband, a fellow college instructor who wants a luxury condo- and is having (another) affair with a younger woman. What would Mitsuki do if she could make decisions without having to consider either of these people?

The first half of the book revolves around Noriko’s final hospitalization and death, and fills us in on the history of the Katsura family. The second half is what Mitsuki does after her mother’s death as she figures out what she really wants out of life. It’s fascinating reading the history of her family and how it was shaped by Japanese culture, as that culture itself changes through modernization and influences from the West. While told in third person, Mitsuki is the main focus of the tale. Mother/daughter relationships, marriage, aging, and sister relationships are all treated here with sensitivity and depth. 


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Rebellion, by Molly Patterson. Harper, 2017


Four women in four eras are at the center of this book. A Christian missionary, Addie, in China in the years leading up to the Boxer Rebellion; Louisa, Addie’s sister who left a middle class family to homestead in the middle of nowhere; Hazel, Louisa’s granddaughter who is suddenly left a widow with a farm to run; and Juanlan, a young Chinese woman who as just graduated college but has to return home to help care for her father. Each of these women steps outside the life that is expected of them, and of course has to live with the consequences of those quiet rebellions.

The book moves at a pretty slow pace. The minutia of daily life is related- when the rebellions are quiet, one has to look at the ordinary to see it contrast with the extraordinary. The descriptions are brilliant; they bring the scenes to life. But… pretty slow. It rather reminds me of a novel from the late 18th century, actually, with its pacing and long descriptions. Which is fine; just be forewarned.

What I didn’t like was that I figured the four strands of narrative would come together in the end. It was obvious what the relationships between Addie, Louisa, and Hazel were, but the relationship that Juanlan has with the three of them is quite nebulous- only that she lives in roughly the same area of China that Addie lived in. I expected that at some point some long hidden letters would appear or something that meshed them all. No such luck. The ended was quite a letdown.



The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something from Amazon- anything- they will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program in return for an unbiased review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

But Then I Came Back, by Estelle Laure. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017




Feeling out of sorts with her twin brother and her best friend, Eden starts to walk away, but slips on the ice, hits her head on a rock, and plunges into a frigid river. She is rescued, but doesn’t regain consciousness for over three weeks. When she comes to, she has a hard road back to recover, physically and emotionally. Brother Digby and friend Lucille are a couple. She can barely walk, much less dance the ballet that was her life. She even has to relearn how to eat and drink. Will she be able to fulfill her plans of college and a dance career? Can she even manage to catch up and graduate with her class?

In the time that she spends recovering in the hospital, she starts spending time looking in at another coma patient, Jaz. Despite knowing nothing about her, she feels a definite connection with Jaz. Then she meets the only other person who visits Jaz: Joe, who has been best friends with Jaz since elementary school. Together, they hope she will wake up.

Eden has a really big coming of age in this story. Not only does she have the usual teenage situations to deal with, but in some ways she’s been sent back to childhood. Add a romance in- her first one- and some supernatural things, and it’s an intense story. I found myself really involved with her struggle and cared about it. The other characters, while I liked them all, were not very deep, but it’s told in first person so that’s understandable. I found out this is a sequel, and that some of the other characters were the focus of the first book. This book stands well on its own, though. 


The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program in return for an unbiased review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.