Off the Menu

It’s not often I get a request to be a part of a book tour, and so when I got an email about this one, as part of the TLC book tours, I jumped at the chance.

The novel follows three Asian-American women — Whitney, Hercules and Audrey — two of which are children of immigrants (the other is an adopted child of rich, white parents). All three were valedictorians of the same high school, and have kept up their friendship (albeit a slightly competitive friendship) ever since. It’s an interesting look at women and friendships, Asians and achievement, and how friendships and dreams and parents all work together (or not).

I don’t think I went in with any expectations — good or bad — but I invariably compared it to the Amy Tan novels I read. (I’m sure that Son is going to get a lot of those comparisons…) And I didn’t find it lacking. In fact, while I didn’t get the same cultural feel that one gets from a Tan novel, I did find I could relate to the characters on a more visceral level. Sure, they’re younger than I am and Asian, but what woman (or man) doesn’t have problems with their parents sometimes? Or their friends? Or harbors secret dreams of doing something other than what society expects of her (or him)?

In addition, I liked the characters. Hercules is a vibrant character — brash and abrasive, yet lovable and approachable. She was my favorite, I think, because she worked so hard, and cared so much and yet was completely clueless as to how to show it. I think I liked Audrey the least — she’s brilliant, beautiful, rich, loving, with a totally supportive man… in short, completely perfect. Sure, her mom’s a total control freak, but that didn’t do enough to humanize her in my mind. In fact, when her dreams all worked out for her in the end, I just rolled my eyes. Whitney was somewhere in the middle — good, perfect even, but had enough challenges to make her seem less goddess-like than Audrey came off.

Son managed to balance the three perspectives quite nicely; I never felt like the story was choppy, or that any of the lesser characters were slighted for Whitney’s story (even if hers felt like the main one). My only real complaint is that I felt confused with the passage of time; the events of one chapter would unfold, and then the next would take place three weeks, or six months later. It would always take me a bit to catch up and figure out when everything was going on.

But that’s a minor quibble. On the whole, it was a good, interesting read.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour!
Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf
Monday, November 10th: Pop Culture Junkie
Tuesday, November 11th: 8Asians
Wednesday, November 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, November 13th: In The Pages
Friday, November 14th: She is Too Fond of Books
Monday, November 17th: Planet Books
Tuesday, November 18th: B & B ex Libris
Wednesday, November 19th: DISGRASIAN
Thursday, November 20th: Booking Mama
Monday, November 24th: The Literate Housewife Review
Tuesday, November 25th: Feminist Review
Wednesday, November 26th: Diary of an Eccentric

42 Miles

Continuing my light, quick and delightful reads…

JoEllen is the child of a divorce. With her mother, she is Ellen, lives in the city, going to movies and eating Chinese take-out. On weekends, with her father, she is Joey, and lives a carefree life on the farm. It’s hard keeping up a dual life, and shortly before her 13th birthday, JoEllen decides to take charge and not only bring her two halves of her life together, but forge a new one for herself.

This book’s charm, however, isn’t in its plot. It’s written in verse, and while I still have a “thing” about poetry, I’m finding that I manage to “get” novels written in verse. I liked JoEllen’s voice, I loved the poems. I am always amazed that an author, in this case Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, can pack so much into so few words. I also felt that Zimmer caught the feelings of a divorced child (or what I imagine a divorced child must feel, not having experience there myself), being torn between two parents, two worlds.

While I wasn’t blown away with excitement over it, I did enjoy the time spent, and I even managed to come away with a favorite poem, which interestingly enough is about poetry, and which I think captures the essence of the book perfectly:

The Poems I Like Best
The poems I like best
wear classic black
with vintage accessories
and smell like a new book,
and the spine just cracked.
They’re the chitchat overheard on a city bus
or nonsense
volleyed between toddlers
on swings at the park.

My favorite poems
squeeze your hand
on a crowded street and say:

The poems I like best
wear blue jeans
and smell
like the tack room of a barn:
worn leather and horse.
They’re the varied verses
of a mockingbird’s song
or syllables traded between brothers
scratching scruffy chins
over the dark mysteries of an engine.

My favorite poems
hold a wooden spoon of words
and whisper:

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel. Thank you.)