I have been in
a bit of a reading slump the last couple of months, but I have read some great books worthy of recommending.
Folklorn: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ This is not the book I expected it to be. Thank you to NetGalley and Erewhon Books for an Advance Reader Copy of this book. Publication date: 27 April 2021
It is really a contemporary story with some pretty heavy topics. Elsa is a complex character dealing with complex family dynamics and ancestral history. She is a female Korean particle physicist doing her post-doc in Sweden. That alone would make for a complicated storyline. She is also revisiting family and generational trauma which adds a mythical layer to the story. As an experimentalist physicist, Elsa can only rule out possibilities, not prove what is true. Does she have mental illness or spirit sickness?
There are lots of metaphors in here, and a lot of them are over my head, about ghost particles, and ghosts of ghosts. Some chapters are Korean folktales. There are chapters about Elsa’s family relationships with her parents and her brother, and their experiences immigrating to America. Elsa’s job takes her from the South Pole, where she has a Swedish lover, to Stockholm, where she meets a Korean-born Swedish adoptee. Historical connections between Korea and Sweden come into play.
This novel is FULL. My analytical mind loved it, my emotional mind loved it, my spiritual mind loved it. This is an author I will surely read again.
The Last Thing He Told Me: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book. Publication date: 4 May 2021
I don't read mystery thrillers much anymore, because I have read so many that I tend to find them all very predictable. This one was different. First of all, this novel is character driven. I related to Hannah, whose husband disappeared, leaving her to look after her sixteen-year-old stepdaughter. I loved the writing style, the short chapters, and the fact that the plot took me places I wasn't expecting. I know I am emotionally engaged with characters when I finish the last chapter sobbing.
Swimming Back To Trout River: ⭐⭐⭐⭐I feel lucky to have read an advance copy of this debut novel. Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada. I will be watching out for more from Linda Rui Feng. She knows how to create authentic, endearing characters. Publication date: 4 May 2021
This is supposed to be the story of Junie, but it’s really the story of her parents and the sacrifices and heartbreaks they faced growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and how it shaped them, and ultimately how it will shape Junie’s future.
I read this novel compulsively. The story moves from rural China to San Francisco, back and forth in time, with four point of view characters. At every point, I was immersed in the lives of the characters. How would the turning points in each of their lives end up connecting them to each other? I did feel it ended somewhat abruptly, but maybe I just didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters.
Unsettled Ground: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I received an advance copy of this one (thanks NetGalley and House of Anansi Press!) Publication date: 18 May 2021
This is a slow, quiet story. The rich details of the writing pulled me in. Jeanie and her twin brother, Julius, are middle aged, unemployed, and now that their mother has died, apparently homeless. They must figure out how to manage without her.
The characters are both frustrating and captivating. I found myself cringing at the choices they made, and at the same time, rooting for them to succeed. They seem very old-fashioned to me, maybe because of the rural setting and poverty. Their lives and the world they live in are depicted so vividly, they feel like real people to me.
This is my second Claire Fuller novel, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. She’s the kind of writer who makes you forget you are reading a book because you are so engaged in the story.