I walked the streets of Brooklyn, wearing a too-thin jacket on my way to school. I rode the subway, studying as we traveled to Aunt Paula's factory. I froze in the roach-riddled apartment and lusted after Matt. I worried and I protected Ma and I was smart. I was very, very smart.
Her successes were my successes, her longings mine as well. Truly an outsider, she was clearer than I'd ever been about the inner workings of her high school's social hierarchy. Being different, having talent, surviving bad teachers and snotty classmates and jealous relatives -- my life was her life for 300 some pages.
Jean Kwok brings Kimberly and Ma into your life and embeds them in your heart. There is no whining, even when the situation warrants it. It's the two of them against the world, and their connection gives each of them the strength to move forward, upward, onward.
It's this connection that makes Girl in Translation such a special book. Thissemi-autobiographical novel renewed my faith in the power of positive thinking. Kimberly knows that she is talented, knows that she and she alone can rescue her little family, knows that there is an end to her pain. She is often beaten but she remains unbowed. She is focused and driven and because of that her travails are never maudlin. They simply are.
Until love enters the picture. This is a delicate, surprising, thoughtful love story, with an ending that is perfect and sad all at once. Stolen kisses landed on my lips at the same time they did Kimberly's. Longing and lust and passion and responsibility - all were present on each and every page.
This simple and elegant book should be read by every high school girl who is considering sacrificing a brilliant future for a popular present. There are deftly told anecdotes folded in amongst scenes familiar to anyone who has ever sat in a classroom or wondered about her place in the world.
But this is not a young adult novel. The larger social issues surrounding immigration and being the other are there as well, woven into the fabric of the story. There is no judgment; there is only understanding and reality.
This is a quick and easy read with a deep and powerful message. Like life itself, the joy is nuanced and the pain multi-faceted. Jean Kwok's debut novel truly does describe a girl in translation.
The Black Box - Michael Connelly's intertwined characters are aging. This can be read as a stand alone story - and a very good one - but it's even better if you know who they were beforehand.
Bad Blood - Dana Stabenow's 20th installment of Kate Shugak's life and times is a modern day riff on Romeo and Juliet. You'll be peeved at the ending, but it will make you come back for more. Wonderful storytelling, as always.
Catherine the Great - Robert K. Massie's day by day account of the life of a minor German princess who changed the face of Russia is a strange mix. It is meticulously researched and the facts are presented in a straightforward manner, but I would have liked some analysis along the way. I found myself saying "WHY?" out loud.
The Suspect - Robert Crais gives the Marine canine as much character as he gives the human to whom he's assigned. PTSD has never been described as well as in this book. I must be one of the few people on the planet who can nod when reading "I was shot three times... and survived."
What I'm Doing in the Garden Now
Deciding that gladiolus grow well in my containers; planning to plant more of them for next summer's color.
Deadheading the rose bushes to the first set of 5 leaves as the blossoms fall
Watering the newly planted containers - vinca, zinnias, portulaca, sunflowers - twice a day
Increasing the number of days I run the irrigation system as the temperatures climb to triple digits.
Cutting back the wildflowers that bloomed last month.
What I'm Watching Right Now
Bachelorette...now that TBG tells me that I am aloud to scream at the screen and cringe as it becomes creepy. I'll probably ignore it until they go to beautiful places and I can pretend it's a travelogue, but the opening episode was noteworthy for the snarky tweets running below the live action.
Mad Men is back and though the writers seem to be at a loss as to where the story is going, Don's descent into nothingness is still fascinating to watch.
NCIS reruns in G'ma's hospital room
Bits and pieces of the NBA playoffs. I much prefer college basketball
What I've Seen Lately
Zero Dark Thirty - a much better movie than
Argo, a made-for-tv-movie-type-movie
What I'm Listening to Now
Using my smart phone and Pandora to bring tunes to the kitchen. Anyone have a suggestion for a small speaker to improve the sound quality? Leave me a comment on any post.