Tuesday, July 21, 2015
I was 13 in 1986 when Susie and Claire graduated and departed as they tried to locate their next selves with around the world tickets in their hands, a backpack, and big dreams. There are parts of this book that strike a chord with me - and easier to engage with than having recently read Wild, by Cheryl Strange. I remember envying my friends that had a copy of Linda Goodman's Love Signs...and all that angst growing up, and not having a clue what I was going to do after I went to university.
This novel covers about three months of an ill-fated trip that was many things. I think I laughed a few times, I know that I cringed a few times, it was quite the story, and it didn't always reflect Susie and her friend, and North Americans in all that great of a light. It is well written, but there are passages that are downright offensive about how they both behaved, and also how truly naive they were. They don't always treat the locals all that well, and they definitely come off as self-centered at times. Isn't that what growing up is all about? I remember my own month long backpacking trip back in 1995, and the experiences that I had, and the people I met along the way - it is far different when you go Ireland and the UK rather than to Asia. When the travelers end up back in the US after Claire's mental breakdown, you never do learn what happens to Susan's travelling partner, and likely, that is for the best. I appreciate that this was Susan's story - there are times I think about writing about our experiences - and I think about whose 'voice' and whose 'story' would it truly be - for me, although I may write about my kids or my husband, or the people I care about, but it would be my 'story' that is told and it would be my evolution I struggle with.
At the end of the day, and interesting snapshot of China in 1986 as it slowly opened to the West, a coming of age story, and an intriguing travel read.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
The soundtrack running through my head is Vance Joy's "Riptide"... it keeps looping in my mind and playing it a few times hasn't really helped.
Again, it is interesting how certain books seem to come along at certain times. Sometimes there is a message, or a reason why it has come along at this certain moment of time. I suspect this could be one of those kind of books - especially since it delves so much in to family history, and breaking free and creating a new history. The whimsical part of my really liked this book - it fits with the theme perhaps of the 'other' worldly a lot of my reading has taken me in the past year. I get the feeling this is another polarizing book that will either draw you in or you will never become a part of it.
I like the idea of being practical from this novel - that it brings strength, and a clear head, and an ability to weather a storm. This is a book about family, and choices, and how our paths can intersect until a circle is closed (for lack of a better analogy) to break free from the past. It is about circuses, and oddities, family, and love. It is about appearances that can be deceiving, and about life on the margins, and creating family out of nothing. Very interesting.
I like this booked in ways that I can't always articulate.
This is a quote from one of the last pages, as the crisis passes, it strikes a chord with me as I am working on figuring out how to move forward with my mom, and my family, and how do we carve a different path from the one we have walked for almost the last decade. It is time to start a new cycle, and a different kind of caring within our family love:
"I am not used to being carried, but there are obligations that come with family, letting them care for you when they need to...We carry our families like anchors, rooting us in storms, making sure we never drift from where and who we are. We carry our families within us the way we carry our breath underwater, keeping us afloat, keeping us alive. I've been lifting anchors since I was eighteen. I've been holding my breath since I was born." (p330).
It is funny, I rushed to the last dozen pages, and then I stumbled my way through them - breaking to distract myself that it was almost done. At least I have a book waiting for me at the library - tonight I will need to take this one back, and fetch myself a new one.
And turning to the last page, we reach the point of where the title comes in to it's own for this book... especially about family and personal histories... "'sometimes we'll make it up. The first secret about history is how much of it is conjecture.' He shrugs. 'And we'll fill in spaces. They were good at inventing themselves.'... she knows that her name will find its way in to his speculations. So will his. Because there are things you do for people you've known your whole life. You let them save you, you put them in your books, and you let each other begin again, clean." (p339).
Friday, July 10, 2015
It was a decent read. It was nice to read about some familiar characters again, and see glimpses of San Francisco. It felt like this was a story line where too many things were happening, and that there were a lot of strings that needed to be pulled together before the story came together. Not completely satisfying.