Spoiler Warning

Book reviews and discussions may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August's Book Announcement

I have let a few days lapse before announcing this month's book choice, and I could not help but notice that nobody noticed. In fact, I suspect a good handful of you were relieved there was no new book to read. Shame on you. Shame. On. You. (And me.)

I have also noticed that our book reviews/discussions this summer have been sparser than the leaves on the dying peach tree in my backyard. Do you gize not have much time for reading this summer? Is my drip system broken? Did you all plan your vacations on the last week of every month? Did I pay my water bill? I don't know the answers to any of these questions, and I guess it really doesn't matter anyway. The tree is dead. Face it.

So, here's what's what.

For the first time in the history of the SRBC, there will be no book choice this month. Instead, I strongly demand that you all use this time to reread a few important books from SRBC past. That's right. I'm talking about The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

This will get you ready for September's book club pick, which will be Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, duh. It's comes out on August 24th, and I'm sure everyone will read it super quick, so we might have our discussion earlier than usual. We shall see. Stay tuned for that info.

Also, I strongly demand that you use your free reading month to bake and decorate a cake. A Hunger Games cake. Check my blog for more info on that later. That is all.

In Response to Recent Comments...

and because I totally over-did it and Comments said I had more than 4,096 characters..........

Oooh! Look at all of these belated discussion comments!! So awesome. This book is a slow-cooker, I think.

So....it's been just long enough since I finished the book that I can't get into too much detail. I can't remember enough to defend myself. But, I will say; regarding the betrayal from Snow Flower to Lily, it wasn't even Snow Flower's betrayal to begin with. It was the matchmaker. And her parents. All of the grownups who KNEW what the deal was. Sure, after their friendship was developed and the girls were older, SF could have told her the real truth, but don't you imagine she was terrified that she'd lose her best friend? I'd be bold enough to suggest that we all have things that we hold secret from even our dearest and bestest friends, simply because we are either ashamed or because we just don't know how to share such painful details. Her family's situation, in that culture, was a massive blow to their social standing. Worse even than being married to a butcher. I just hate that Lily held SF so responsible for the deception. Being one who was so true to the traditions and 'rules' she might have been a little more compassionate. Wouldn't she have done the same? Did SF really have a choice? Lying is definitely contrary to the ten commandments, but I don't think in SF's position, it was despicable. How much control do any of us have over where we come from, the families we are attached to? I have to also say that I think it's an interesting perspective that all women during that time had the same personality type. Really? I mean....really? That can't be true in any culture, in any time period, in any situation. Books and movies and stories are quite often based on people in such difficult situations who break free of the stereotype and prove that despite their cultural responsibilities, they are still individual and unique. I also wanted to throw in my two cents about Lily's advice to SF. Was it unwanted? SF ate it all up. And wasn't Lily just saying what she knew to be the 'right' thing to say? She was shrewd enough to know that she had landed an honorable position as Lady Lu and she had a namesake to uphold, a responsibility.

I certainly agree that bed business in front of everyone by the fire was GROSS. But the man beat her fhs! If you were married to a man who beat you...and he wanted to get it on by the fire - would you choose the risk of public awareness of your bed business or take a beating? I'm just sayin.' We really didn't get much of SF's perspective and maybe there was more going on there than Lily was aware of.

Having been someone who was ridiculed, teased, ostracized and punished for family dynamics I couldn't control, for personality traits I had simply been born with and for behavior that resulted from abuse I not only couldn't have avoided nor did I entirely understand (sorry...tmi. Plus, I don't think this makes me special btw. I think everyone deals with this stuff)- and having been in the position of being dumped from a friendship because I needed to honor my cultural and deep-seated beliefs, as well as having to end a friendship for the same reasons - I felt pretty affected by this story. I think friendships that can withstand all of those things are quite remarkable. And not just an event or something, but a lifetime of growth, changes, discovery, mistakes. Perhaps that's why I think it's a miracle that my husband loves me. Despite me.

Most of all, I'm glad to see some passion coming out of you guys after this book. It was a strong topic. I apologize if it was too much for the middle of the summer. I also think it's very commendable that we can all say what we want to say in this nu shu - ish forum. It would be quite easy to misinterpret tone and meaning without hearing the tone or seeing the body language associated with it. Of course, I'm really just stating the obvious. Now if y'all don't mind, I'm going to finish plugging through Eat Pray Love and move on to rereading Hunger Games. I've got a cake to plan. Bring it on people. Bring. It. On.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Discussion of The Snowflake Book....


Unfinished review.....will write more later

In the seventh grade my friend Tracy Ewens wrote me a note saying that she was sorry that sometimes she acted like a b word.  Unfortunately I read the note and understood it to say, "Sorry but sometimes you act like a b word."  I was so devastated that she would call me a b word that I immediately, without finishing the note to the end, burned it with a match over the toilet and then flushed it down.  It took us weeks to figure out what happened and get back to being friends

I only have five minutes before we start the discussion.  I'll go back and finish  this review another night when I have more time because there are so many things I want to say.

My Feet Ache

Review of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See by Jenny ESP

Note: do not use google images to look up pictures of what foot binding looks like/did to a woman’s feet. I must reiterate. Do NOT use google images to look up pictures of what foot binding looked like/did to feet.

If I were to describe SFATSF offhand, I would say it is a book rich in character and slight in plot, and for the reader’s interest to be captured, they would have to either a) be interested in these characters on a personal level, or b) be fascinated with ancient Chinese culture as it pertains to women. I think this is true for the most part, but after giving it more thought, I realized that the author didn’t simply rely on the reader’s interest in the characters, or interest in the strange, cruel culture of 19th century China. From the beginning, she hinted at the scandal, betrayal, lies, secrets that were to come. That kept me going as much as my interest in the characters/culture did. I enjoyed her writing style. I had to read all that foot binding stuff with one eye closed. Horrific. This made me thankful to be born in the US of A in 1980 something, that’s for sure.

I did read the “Catching Cool Breezes” chapter, of course. Being told it was inappropriate only made me more apt to read it, but that’s not my point. My point is, I didn’t interpret that encounter as a “physical relationship” between Lily and Snow Flower. It was too innocent to feel sexual. Kind of a let down. <-- I kid!!!

Thanks for the pick, Stands. I much enjoyed.

The Chinese Are Whack, Yo.

Friendship, yes.

Loyalty, of course.

Bed business, giggle.

Traditions, galore.

The thing that stuck with me most and made me have an extremely uncomfortable airplane ride to Los Angeles was the freakin' foot-binding.  Whaaaaat in the aaaayyyche???   I mean, right?  HOW does that make one more marriageable?   WHY is that attractive?  WHY did I need to read about the process in such great detail??

Forget wanting only sons as the way to prove my ultimate worth as a woman.  I wouldn't want to have any daughters so I wouldn't have to bind their adorable widdle feet!

I did some research.  You can thank me later.

Hmmm...this doesn't look tooooooo too bad.....


Aw, look at this adorable little Chinese woman on her golden lilies! 

These are apparently those embroidered shoes they would spend hours making up in the women's chamber.

Ok, Lady Lu, I'd rather you keep your shoe on but, still, doesn't look too bad to me....

Wait, is that....are those?   Nooooooooooooooooooo!  ::gouging out eyes with my Sonic straw::

Ho.  Ly.  Crap.

I think I may have just died of grossness.


Ok.  So.  There's that. 

Moving on.

I really did enjoy the book (foot-binding details aside).  I find that time and culture fascinating.  The arranged marriages and social hierarchies along with the rituals and superstitions are almost beyond comprehension to someone like me, born in Boise, ID in 1975.  It almost came off as a sci-fi novel sometimes as I could not believe this stuff actually happened.

I thought the story and writing was enjoyable and it moved along well.  I love the causal narrative style the author used.  It's my favorite.  Like you are sitting at an 80 year old Lady Lu's feet as she tells you the story and her laotong.  My only complaint is that I wasn't in love with Snow Flower.  I don't think she was endearing enough to make me care when she died.

Anyway, good read.  Enjoyable.  Definitely a departure from our norm.  Educational.  Thanks Stands!

China Beaches

Picture, if you will, a split screen. On one side, two little girls meet on a beach under a boardwalk. On the other, two little girls are formally introduced and set down to write a contract as Laotongs. On the first side, the girls grow up and are the best of friends; sharing an apartment, laughing, writing letters; not really 100% aware of the others true circumstances. On the second, the girls grow up together, writing letters in a secret language, and marking important events on a fan - the supposed rich girl who isn't and the supposed poor girl who is really, much better off. The first set date and meet their husbands. The second set endure arranged marriages and spend a year taking conjugal visits before being sent off to clean house for their mothers-in-law, only being beaten once in a while. Of course, that's only after their husbands have succeeded in getting them pregnant. Imagine years of a misunderstandings, in only the way women can have them; most often - silent. And they gradually grow apart. Until that day when they meet up and the sparks fly. It could be in a mall, walking through the makeup department. It could be during the bridal events of one of the girls. Insults fly, hearts are broken and years pass without word from the girls to each other. Imagine now that in one set, there is a little girl. Her mother is terminally ill and the women come back together. In the other set, there is a boy (more highly revered than a girl, tho behaves much like one) and his mother is also terminally ill.

Ok...you certainly get the picture now, right? I almost think I need to watch Beaches again. Don't get me wrong. I really liked this book. It reminded me of how blessed I am to have grown up in small town America, where I could play and run around and become exactly who I wanted to be. I married the man I wanted to marry. And, my husband not only never beats me, he does laundry and cooks meals and he loves his little girl as much as he loves his boys.

It also left me considering our relationships. How we allow our friends or sisters to influence our decisions. I had a sister tell me once, how much she loved it when my hair was shorter. Come my next hair appointment, my hair was short again. Simply because I knew she liked it that way. ("Why did you cut your hair?" "Because you told me to!" / "Why did you have sex before you were supposed to after having a baby?" "Because you told me to try for more sons!") I can't help but admit that I did admire the idea of a Laotong. Someone who shares so many similarities. Not so much as children, but a Laotong as a grown up could be an incredible blessing. A lifeline, even.

I don't know if any of you read the Catching Cool Breezes chapter. The one I warned you about? It strongly implies that the two girls had a physical relationship as well. While I 100% agree with the Man/Woman only thing, I have to admit that I completely understand how and why that could happen. Probably happens a lot. Those poor women never get love from anyone. Their mothers are mean. Their fathers ignore them. Their husbands and mothers-in-law beat them. The human spirit just needs a soft place to fall somewhere and if the only person in the world who understands and loves you is your laotong?

I don't often truly shed a tear when I'm reading. But when Third Sister didn't survive her foot binding, I couldn't help it. Golden lilies or not....un.believable. Curse the idiot who came up with that idea. And curse the men in China for being turned on by it. I can't really compare it to boob jobs or something here in America. We don't torture our daughters when they're teeny (well those of us who are sane, right?) I was at the pool a couple of days after I'd finished this book. There was a family there with obviously adopted little girls from China. I don't really know if the same foot stuff and attitudes about women continues there, but I'm betting in some of the more remote villages, it does. And darn it if I wouldn't fly over there and rescue a baby girl from such a life.