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Monday, November 29, 2010

Hello, Fellow Fiction Fanatics:

Miss me? I’ve been absent from this blog for a while. My deepest apologies, but it’s not really my fault. I was trying to slog my way through today’s blog entry: World and Town by Gish Jen. And then the holiday happened, which entailed making four pies, one turkey and enough dressing to feed 11 people.

You will be glad to know that after I ate several Thanksgiving dinners that couldn’t be beat, I had time to settle down and finish not only today’s featured title but two other books as well. Hallelujah! That means you won’t have to wait too long for the next blog entry!

Thanks for your patience. Stay tuned for today's feature presentation:

World and Town
Gish Jen
Knopf, 2010
386 pages
(but it seemed like more)

Two years after burying her husband and best friend, 68-year-old Hattie Kong moves to a small New England town. It takes her a while but she is finally fitting in and making friends with the local residents. One day she notices a Cambodian family has moved into a dilapidated trailer next door to her, and she can’t help but watch their daily goings-on through her kitchen window. After being acquainted with the family, she discovers they are having problems and she tries to organize help for them, only to be rebuffed and rejected. Instead, she notices, the local fundamentalist church has taken the family under their wing, providing guidance, food and education, but Hattie is not so sure this type of help will keep the family together and out of trouble. Meanwhile, her Chinese relatives are having a string a bad luck and keep pestering Hattie to send back her parents’ bones so they can be buried properly.

Have you ever noticed that the book with all the positive reviews is the one that’s hardest to get through? However, I did finish it – FINALLY. This is a very dense book, with lots of description and long sentences. The point of view moves around a bit, but it usually focuses on Hattie, a very nice older woman who is lonely and alone except for her dogs. She reallywants to help the family next door, but she is Chinese and they don’t trust her because of their past experiences with China. I think there are too many subplots in this novel to make it flow smoothly. It’s easy to get the characters mixed up between the subplots, and the added switches between the present and the past are also hard to keep straight. It’s very slow going, but people who like descriptive, character-driven, literary novels may enjoy this more than I did.


Other books by this author:
Typical American (1991)
Mona in the Promised Land (1996)
Who’s Irish and Other Stories (1999)
The Love Wife (2004) – I very much enjoyed this title!

Other titles you may enjoy:

A Week in Winter by Marcia Willett (2002)
When Maudie Todhunter, the elderly owner of a Corwall farmhouse, decides to sell the family homestead, old family secrets threaten to come to the surface.

Brother and Sister by Joanna Trollope (2004)
David and Nathalie, adopted and raised by the same parents decide to begin a painful journey to find their birth mothers, affecting their spouses, children, and co-workers.

Bingo by Rita Mae Brown (1988)
Two elderly widows, Julia and Louise Hunsenmeir, fight over the same man while Julia's daughter, Nickel, faces her own battles to save the local newspaper from corporate takeover.

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