Hi friends. We just got back from a week away in Maine where, miracle of miracles, I read two whole books. With children. The children were there and I still read the books. Thank you powers of sun and ocean and complete juvenile exhaustion. Naptime, may you bless this house until I’ve read all the books.
The Boston Girl and Everything I Never Told You were suggested to me by fellow readers of this blog and I enjoyed them both. Eerily similar in their tone and content, both novels had themes of struggle, heartache, immigration, and impossibly hard family dynamics. Neither changed my life or ended up on my favorite books list, but they held my attention and had me reading until the very end.
As always, all reviews are spoiler free.
If You’re Looking For: Fiction, dysfunctional family drama, historical fiction
My Review: If you are looking for a suspense or crime thriller, you can skip right past this one! Everything I Never Told You is a domestic drama marketed as a thriller about a Chinese-American man (born in the US), his blonde, Caucasian wife, and their three mixed race children. I liked it. Ng is a lovely writer, but the story dragged and a lot of it felt repetitive. It was also dark without instigating much empathy for the main characters which was frustrating and sad. There are some really beautiful passages scattered throughout this book, though. Overall, it read like a debut novel but made me look forward to reading her next book.
Their Review: “Wonderfully moving…Emotionally precise…A beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief…[This book] will resonate with anyone who has ever had a family drama.” – Boston Globe
Quoted: “Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.”
2. The Boston Girl.
If You’re Looking For: Historical fiction, young adult fiction, easy read
My Review: Easy, predictable, just fine. I didn’t want to stop reading it, which is always an indicator of something. If you are looking for it to be as meaty as Diamant’s The Red Tent (one of my favorites), you might be disappointed. The story starts with a granddaughter interviewing her grandmother whose parents were immigrants in the early 20th century and continues as if you are listening to her story. I really enjoyed her accounts on the hot topics of the time; women’s education, abortion, WWI , the flu epidemic, prohibition, women’s voting rights, civil rights, child labor, orphan trains, women wearing pants. If I had to think up two adjectives for the book, I’d choose warm and sweet. If you are looking for a light read, go ahead and pick this up.
Their Review: “The Boston Girl suffers most from its refusal to acknowledge the complexity of memory and oral history. Addie claims, ‘I’ve forgotten a lot more than I like to admit,’ but without hesitation, repetition or unconscious revelation, she delivers happy recollections from the 1920s with more detail and dialogue than I can recall from breakfast. On the tight, shiny surface of this narrative, there’s so little tremor of real life. Without letting us hear the resonance of actual reminiscence and the timbre of authentic speech, the novel moves along without moving us.” – The Washington Post
Quoted: “They all agreed that things were better in the old days. Some of them were sad about it and some were bitter, but it was always, ‘Nothing is as good as it used to be.’ I swore I would never talk like that and you know what? Now that I’m an old lady myself, I think that most things are better than they used to be. Look at the computers. Look at your sister, the cardiologist, and you, graduating from Harvard. Don’t talk to me about the good old days. What was so good?”