THE IMPOSTER BRIDE

bride

NANCY RICHLER

Nancy Richler’s third novel is a family drama set in postwar Montreal, where Polish Jew Lily Azerov has come via Palestine to marry a man she has never met. When her fiance sees her his snap decision is that she isn’t for him. When his brother, Nathan, goes to apologize he proposes and soon they are married. The book is narrated by by Ruth, Sol and Elka’s daughter. The couple meet at Nathan and Ruth’s wedding that Elka and her mother Bella crash because back home Bella had a cousin named Lily Azerov. But at the wedding she realized that the bride was not her relation.

When Ruth is 3 months old, her mother Lilly went out for milk and never returned. When they checked the fridge there were many bottles of formula and a bottle of milk. The family gathered around Nathan to help raise Ruth. Elka became a surrogate mother. When she was 6 her mother sent her a chunk of quartz along with a note, written in Lily’s hand, detailing when and where the rock was found. This is the trigger that starts her wondering about where her mother could be and what had happened.  More packages arrive over the years and Ruth’s curiosity about Lily grows.

Imposter Bride is an engaging novel. A good read.

THE LITTLE RED GUARD: A Family Memoir

WENGUANG HUANG

AKA: Portrait of a Coffin

What I enjoyed most about this memoir was that it followed China into the modern era. I’ve read so many novels and memoirs that stay in China’s schizophrenic past so it was enlightening to learn about the the changes that led to the China of the present.

“At the age of 10, I slept next to a coffin that Father had made for Grandma.” Grandma wanted to go against the Maoist orders and forgo cremation and be buried. This puts tremendous strain on the family. What if others found out? They could be exposed and loose even the little they had. Wenguang was the keeper of his grandmother’s “shou mu,” or “longevity wood,” a Chinese euphemism for coffin. Huang describes a family saga unfolding against the backdrop of the upheavals and fluctuations of 20th century China. Grandma is certainly a paragon of virtue and devotion. She stayed at home carring for Wenguang so his mother could work. Neighbors and friends worship her; they line up to pay tribute to her early in the morning on New Year’s Day, hoping that some of her good luck and longevity might rub off on them. Though she fought ruthlessly with the mother.

OUTLAW MARRIAGES: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples

RODGER STREITMATTER

Outlaw looks at 15 couples during a time when being gay was against the law. Several of the couples had one person famous and the other partner was muse and or caretaker to his or her famous spouse. That was the case with Walt Whitman and his beloved streetcar conductor Peter Doyle who was much younger than the great poet. Doyle was Whitman’s muse when he wrote Leaves of Grass. Greta Garbo was outraged when her partner and social and career advisor Mercedes do Acosta published a memoir of their time together. The book included topless photos of the great beauty. Frank Merlo “stabilized Tennessee Williams life so his creative juices could begin flowing again. Alice B. Toklas was instrumental in getting Gertrude Stein‘s writings published.

A great read.

SHINE, SHINE, SHINE

 

LYDIA NETZER

Shine is a family drama focusing on Sunny Mann and her autistic son Bubber. Her husband, Maxon, is currently in space overseeing his project of robots that can build larger robots that will build a space station on the moon. Maxon, a Nobel prize winner, has aspergers syndrome. Maxon and Sunny are childhood friends who married. Sunny’s mother helped teach Maxon social skills that aspergers’ people find so hard to learn. While Maxon is in orbit, Sunny is maintaining her guise as the perfect wife, mother and homemaker, even as she deals with a terminally ill mother, an autistic toddler who is having problems in school and the end stages of pregnancy.

“Deep in darkness, there was a tiny light. Inside the light, he floated in a spaceship. It felt cold to him, floating there. Inside his body, he felt the cold of space.”

About Sunny: “The tragedy of her father’s absence had never actually been an acutely tragic event for her. As she grew up and came to understand the world, he was a part of it. An already dead part. His absence was the landscape of her family. Increasingly, as the years went on, she didn’t really know what she was missing, but that didn’t stop her from missing it. She fixated on him. She prayed to him. She attempted to research him, found obscure publications of his in scientific journals. The language was so formal, she could barely understand it. But she told herself, This is familiar. This is mine, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. She thought, There was a feeling he had, when he wrote this, when he was alive. He communicated it to me, even though everyone who reads this article only gets a lot of information about this scientific test subject, and his reaction to all these oils. She dreamed her father was still out there [ . . . though] her belief that her father was still living did not stop her from telling stories about his death.”

A must read with wonderful quirky characters but somewhat heavy laden. The theme of the terminally ill mother should have been left out.

GEEK LOVE

KATHERINE DUNN

Geek Love is a truly bizarre work of fiction. The Binewski clan is a carny family. The parents, Al and Lilly, set out to breed circus freaks. They use chemicals, poisons and radiation to create this oddities. “What a greater gift could you offer your children than an inherent ability to earn a living just by being themselves?” Arturo the Aquaboy has flippers for limbs. He does his part of the show in a glass tank so the crowd can see him swimming. Elly and Iphy are Siamese twins, two torsos but only two legs. An albino hunchback,Oly, tells his strange and wonderous tale. The youngest Chick was born with no obvious
impairments, a norm. The parents were so horrified they made plans to give away their normal child. But Chicks abnormality is discovered just before he was to be abandoned.

This is a must read.