A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Review Summary  In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a …

The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

Review Summary The Harmony Silk Factory traces the story of textile merchant Johnny Lim, a Chinese peasant living in British Malaya in the first half of the twentieth century. Johnny’s factory is the most impressive structure in the region, and to the inhabitants of the Kinta Valley Johnny is a hero—a Communist who fought the …

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Review Summary As you settle into the first page of The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng and his majestic prose will gently transport you into a painfully beautiful past. It’s Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambridge and time spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Yun Ling Teoh, herself the scarred lone survivor of …

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

Pikadon, translated literally, comes from the Japanese words pika, meaning brilliant light, and don, meaning boom. It is the word used to describe the moment when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan during World War II, and it is the black hole around which the story of A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding revolves. In this novel, the …

Thursday Quotables: The Garden of Evening Mists

Many people who know me, especially those who know me as an academic, know that I am obsessed with memory studies. Memory, to me, is a beautiful facet of the human condition. It helps us navigate our own identities, to create who we are, and to connect to other people. We learn how to remember, …

Thursday Quotables: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

 As those of you who read my Sunday Post know, I’ve been slowly working my way through Jackie Copleton‘s A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding. Even though it’s totally my style, both in terms of the quietness of the writing and the subject matter, it hasn’t really been grabbing me. That probably has more to do with my …

Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivak

Unspeakable Things is a darkly erotic novel that explores the depths of human perversion and interplay between pleasure and shame. The reader gets brief glimpses into the abuse experienced by women and children during the era of World War II: a hunchback who becomes the sex slave of Rasputin, a German doctor with an obsession …

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

This book was awarded my May 2016 Best of the Bunch Award! When my grandfather was alive, I used to visit him in the retirement home where he had an apartment. My mother, however, lived with him there for a time, and visited him far more often than I ever could. She helped to decorate …

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Oh, how deeply I have fallen in love with this book! It didn’t take many pages before I knew that this would be one of my favorite books of all time. Although technically it’s a young adult novel, it’s incredible cleverness, sophistication, and willingness to tackle big issues makes it a wonderful read for adults …

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale tells the tale of two French sisters in World War II. Vianne is timid and self-conscious, and feels herself to be weak. Her husband is her foundation, and her eight-year-old daughter Sophie is her joy. Isabelle, however, is vivacious and rebellious. Kicked out of countless boarding schools for bad behavior, she covers her …