Sunday, November 6, 2011

Honolulu to Hanoi to the Amazon-my latest adult reads

In the dark mornings of October and November it's appealing to read a book set in Honolulu.  I just finished reading Honolulu by Alan Brennert.  I absolutely loved it.  It's the fascinating story of a young woman who dreaming of an education and more freedom than she can have in Korea she becomes a picture bride in Honolulu 1914.  Focusing on life in Korea and then Honolulu from the turn of the century to the 1950s but particularly between the two wars, it is a fascinating glimpse into the history of Hawaii.

Once having spent a week in Kauai I was fascinated with the multicultural society and history of the islands as various workers came from different parts of the world  and how these societies were able to mesh together.   One thing that is fascinating in the novel is how the attitudes of the mainland USA varied with that of the reality of Hawaii. 

I just finished another book that I really enjoyed.  That was The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb.  I think I heard Camilla speak about this book a year ago at the Vancouver International Writers' Festival, but somehow it took me a year to read it!  I loved her book, Sweetness in the Belly.  I think I liked this one just as much, perhaps more.  Set in Hanoi, it focuses on an old man who sells the best Pho from his cart and a young American woman of Vietnamese ancestry who has returned to try to find out what happened to her artist father whom she and her mom were forced to leave behind thinking that he would one day join them.  Between them is a young Vietnamese former math teacher and current tour guide, and his father, a carpenter who was the son of a writer who was tortured and killed for being a free thinker.  The mystery unravels and we learn a little of the history of those terrible times.  And yes, it actually has quite a happy ending.

A third book that I enjoyed reading was Ann Patchett's latest, State of Wonder.  This time I was transported from Minnesota to a Brazilian jungle.  A pharmaceutical company has a woman researching fertility but she isn't giving regular reports so that Anders, a researcher is sent to investigate.  It's then reported that he died and was buried at the research camp.  His colleague, Marina, very reluctantly goes to find out more information about what has happened.  I do love a novel set in an exotic location (not that Patchett makes it any too appealing) and the issues that are raised are very interesting.  This is a very "discussable" book. 

And now I have returned to reading children's books so stay tuned. 

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