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Finding time for a few good books

October 1, 2011
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

About a couple of months ago I took advantage of the Marshall-Lyon County Library's anticipated move and checked out quite a few books. Somewhere in the double-digits. I guess I?figure I would finish them before the due date. First stack of books - due Oct. 3; second one - due Nov. 1. The first stack is bigger though.

I am currently reading Pat Benatar's autobiography "Between a Heart and a Rock Place." So far I've learned about her elementary and high school years growing up in New York, her time in school choir and her disastrous first marriage in which she kept the last name. Oh, and her instant connection with current husband Neil "Spyder"?Giraldo. What a woman and a rocker to boot.

Luckily I got the chance to read a few books I've been waiting for. One is the sequel to Lisa See's "Shanghai Girls" - "Dreams of Joy." It picks up where the headstrong Joy is heading to mainland China to find her birth father. In "Shanghai Girls,"?sisters Pearl and May Chin come from a well-to-do family but their father gambles their money away. So to repay his debts, both Pearl and May are sold to a rich Chinese-American as brides for his sons.

The two escape to the United States and settle in Los Angeles where they're basically married to strangers; Joy is also born. The story follows the sisters from the 1930s until the 1950s where "Dreams of Joy" picks up. Joy learns about some family secrets and heads to China. She ends up on a commune where she quickly learns that the "communist dream"?ends up a nightmare with hunger famine and death.

Pearl heads to the land she escaped two decades ago to bring Joy back to the States Basically it was a look at China under Mao's reign.

I'm not going to lie, I?really do enjoy See's novels. And this one was no exception. The way she told Joy's story about the commune, her fast marriage to a man she barely knew and then living with his parents and nine other siblings while basically starving to death, I?could just visualize everything that was going on. And I admired Pearl's determination to find Joy, despite everything that had happened in Shanghai. Even though I read somewhere that See wasn't really going to write a sequel to this book, I'm glad she did. It tied things together and I just like reading about See's view of China back in a certain period -?whether it's the 1930s or during the years when Chinese women would bind their feet.

Next up was "Sisterhood Everlasting" by Ann Brashares - the end-all, be-all of the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants"?saga. Here I?thought Brashares wrapped it all up with "Forever in Blue,"?but out popped another one.

This time, it's 10 years later for the childhood friends Bridget, Carmen, Lena and Tibby. They're almost 30 and each have their own lives -?Bridget's a free spirit living in California with her boyfriend, Eric. Carmen is an actress in New York with her fiance Jones, a television executive. Lena is an artist and also teaches art. Tibby had moved to Australia with her boyfriend Brian and then basically dropped off the face of the earth until she proposes a reunion of the friends in Greece.

But when Tibby doesn't show, the other girls, well, women, wonder what happened. I won't reveal what did occur, but it kept me guessing until the end.

Now the books could've ended with the fourth book in the series and all would've been fine in my book. But "Sisterhood Everlasting"?does explore the "so what happened to those girls when they became adults?" Kind of like one does when writing fanfiction of a favorite book, movie or television show - what happened to this character or that character? What if we have this happen? The possibilities are endless.

After seeing this book in Book Page, a publication from the library, my book club is set to do "The Paris Wife"?by Paula McLain for December's meeting. It's a novel told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway's first wife.

I was happy to snap it up when I?spotted it on the shelf. I'm looking forward to seeing what the rave is all about.



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