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Initially focusing on perfume and haute couture, this book rapidly morphs into two strands of story that braid together through a complex bad actor, Robert, who impacts both with tragic results. Identical twins Saskia and Jenny have very different personalities, one very dysfunctional. Sara’s much younger sister Mattie is developmentally disabled. Jenny and Mattie both die and their sisters, who took care of them, connect and take revenge. The book has a chilly affect; I found it fascinating. Set in Toronto and British Columbia.
Reese, trans, lives with Amy, also trans. But Amy eventually finds that life too stressful, moves out, and detransitions back to Ames, once James. He takes up with his boss, Karina, who gets pregnant. Reese has always yearned for a child; she runs a daycare program at a gym. Ames has a wild idea: could the three become co-parents? So many potential pitfalls: does Karina even want a kid? What happens when she discovers Ames’s history? The ending is ambiguous. This book often put me on edge, in part trying to sort out the pronouns and wondering about Own Voice. (The author is lesbian.) It’s such a complex subject, one that holds much fascination for me, and despite my discomfort, I enjoyed the book.
Laura, Jake, and their children live in an apartment in the New York Public Library. It’s 1913 and he’s the Superintendent and an aspiring novelist. Laura manages to study journalism at Columbia but it’s a challenging, frustrating balancing act. She discovers a group of rabble-rousing women in Greenwich Village and ultimately finds her destiny there. In 1993 Sadie, in charge of the Berg Collection at the library, is dealing with rare book thefts. She’s Laura’s granddaughter, though no one is aware of that connection. The plot was unsurprising but what with the well-researched subject, I enjoyed it anyway.
We start with Ethan who knows nothing of his father’s additional family, a wife from Thailand and their offspring. (Dad always seemed to be on the road.) Subsequent chapters introduce us to other characters and eventually we learn how they’re all part of the story. The title is ironic—more misery than joy among them. Issues of race and sexual orientation get a workout. It took me quite a while to figure out the connections—an intriguing puzzle.
Junie’s parents left her in China with the grandparents when they immigrated to America. She was born with legs that end below the knee but manages surprisingly well. Her father Momo ends up in the Midwest, her mother Cassia in San Francisco. They’d been apart geographically for a while, but when she suspects he’s having an affair, she sees no reason to reconnect. Plunges back into revolutionary days show us what shaped to each. Music is interwoven. Momo wanted to play the violin but became an engineer instead and Junie has talent. A surprising reunion at the end brings Momo and Cassia together in a heart-stopping denouement. Lyrical, sometimes dreamlike, and magical.
Back next week.