Muddy Waters

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a historical fiction novel based on events surrounding the adoption industry during approximately thirty years in the last century. In particular, the fraudulent, inhuman dealings of The Tennessee Children’s Home Society under the auspices of Georgia Tann which kidnapped, abused, and sold hundreds of children from unsuspecting parents.

In this story, five siblings living on a river shanty in Memphis are taken from their parents never to be seen again. Many years later, an unsuspecting wealthy young woman had uncovers her grandmother’s hidden past while visiting a nursing home where she observes an old photograph of a group of women, one of whom is a dead-ringer for her grandmother. The story flips from past to present as the granddaughter slowly unravels the truth about her heritage.

The story is heartbreaking especially knowing there exist true stories similar to it involving adoptions and orphaned children connected to a barbaric Society which operated in the last century.

I had a difficult time reading this story because of the nature of it. I could have done without the modern day love story. For me, it didn’t lend anything to the story. However, the subject matter of the illegal adoption agency and its horrific history was of interest and I recommend the novel based on that story being brought to light in fictionalized form.

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Curve Ball

I didn’t realize I was listening to another book with the same title until about three chapters into Far From the Tree by Virginia Deberry and Donna Grant! I thought I had requested the more recent novel by another author. Oops! That one will remain on my list to read!

This mix-up turned out to be a fortunate one because I enjoyed this story about an African-American woman and her grown daughters! When Della’s husband of many years passes on unexpectedly, long-held secrets are revealed which change the course of the lives of their daughter Ronnie, the aspiring actress, her sister Celeste whose marriage is on the verge of collapse, and their mother Della who is forced to revisit the unhappy home of her youth.

This is a down to earth, heartfelt, story with a message about mother-daughter relationships written in distinct dialects. I am grateful to have encountered it “by mistake”!

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Behind the Lens

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng finally found its way to me. I’ve wanted to read this popular novel for quite some time. Now that I have, I offer the following thoughts on it.

This story begins with the huge hook of a house on fire. That caught my interest! From there, the author drops the smoking house and delves into the past of more people than you can shake a stick at. So many, in such intricate detail that I eventually got bored. I wanted to know who started the fire. I think the quality of the writing and characterization is superb. My chief complaint is that there is too much back story on too many people. The reveal comes at the very end of the novel and by then my interest had waned. There are numerous themes about parenting amid several others. Again, too many distractions.

I heard a movie version of this novel is in the works. I can’t even imagine how all of what is written will be compressed on the big screen. After a spectacular beginning, the end of the story fizzled out like a sparkler doused in water. I am sorry I cannot recommend this novel after going into it with high hopes. I welcome my followers feedback!

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Who Am I

I just finished The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. Unfortunately, it failed to meet my expectations. After my disappointment in China Dolls and my awareness of the popularity of See’s latest novel, I was all ready for a positive reading experience.

This historical fiction story about a young Chinese woman from a backward, remote mountain village in China who has a child out of wedlock left me feeling overloaded with too much information. Told in the first-person, the novel chronicles the history of China, the tea industry, the life of the child abandoned by the main character, real estate purchases by Chinese citizens in America, recycling, and way too much more. The deluge of information distracted me from the heart of the story which I took to be a woman who spends her life looking for the child she abandoned in a box on the side of a road in China.

I do not scoff at the success of this novel, but question what made it so? I will always love the first novel I read by Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I wish I felt the same way about the last two I have recently read.

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Keep Digging

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca is a well researched book about a real life female detective named Mrs. Grace Humiston and her incredible story. Solving baffling cases and championing the rights of the underserved earned Grace her well-deserved nickname.

As a Holmes fan, I eagerly added this book to my list when it was released last year. How grateful I am that I did because it is fascinating! Grace was a trailblazer who worked tirelessly during the early 20th century to solve the case of a missing young woman long after the New York police department had labeled the unfortunate victim of foul play a runaway and given up on the case. Hired by the missing girl’s parents, Grace assembled her own team and eventually solved the case while at the same time, exposing graft and corruption in the police department.

This is only one of the many accomplishments highlighted in this informative biographyThere is no doubt Grace was a woman ahead of her time. The book also sheds light on other women with whom Grace interacted who made significant contributions of their own in the male dominated era during which they lived.

If you enjoy crime stories or women’s history, I think you will appreciate this book. I found it enlightening!

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Vivre

The Little French Bistro by Nina George is a fictional novel about a German woman named Marianne who, while vacationing in Paris, decides to attempt suicide by jumping in the Seine.

Unhappily married to a selfish man for many years and childless, she believes her life has no value. Much like A Man Called Ove, fate and a group of spirited coastal French men and women open her heart to joy.

I liked this novel a great deal. It contains many truisms about what it means to be truly alive. The characters are wonderful and oftentimes, humorous! I recommend it!

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Three’s a Crowd

China Dolls by Lisa See is a historical fiction novel.The story begins in San Francisco just prior to World War Two where three young Asian-American women are attempting to pursue their dreams of careers in the entertainment business. The girls origins are quite different which provides contrast in their outlooks and motivations to succeed in their goals. Two of the girls are of Chinese descent and the other is Japanese pretending to be Chinese.

The novel follows the girl’s careers and personal lives through the war and into their old age. I am disappointed to report I did not enjoy this book. I came away from it feeling like See took a history timeline and using it as a guideline, padded her storyline with every historical occurrence possible. Although this is to be expected in historical fiction, I felt it was over the top in this book. Four instance, the Japanese-American girl is unmasked and sent to an internment camp for part of the war as are her parents and brother. At the same time, her two friends go on their way trying to “make it” in show business. One girl is a single mother married to a gay male dancer because the biological father of the child abandoned her and the other is taking any job she can get because it is rumored that she turned the Japanese girl in to the authorities resulting in her own reputation being sullied.

For me, the over abundance of history tie-ins distracted me from the characters and diminished my feelings for them. I welcome the input of any follower who has read this novel because I am interested in hearing your perception of it. I am about to read Lisa See’s most recent novel and have high hopes it will be more enjoyable.

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