Neshama’s Choices for May 9th

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How to Find What You're Not Looking for

A kids’ book about the challenges of cross-cultural relationships. Ariel, Jewish, is 12. It’s ’67, a time of national ferment. Her 17-year-old sister elopes with Raj, and there’s a schism in the family. Ariel is miserable at home and in school, but a wonderful young teacher recognizes her dysgraphia, her talent at poetry, and even gets her an electric typewriter. So many stumbling blocks: her stubborn parents can’t countenance marrying outside the faith and don’t acknowledge their racism. They also resist the teacher’s suggestions because they fear their daughter will be labeled as special needs. A crisis and a baby finally break down the barricades. Sprinklings of Yiddish add flavor.  (The author’s mother is Jewish and her father is from India.) Solid and thoughtful material to consider and it’s delivered through excellent storytelling rather than rhetoric.  

A Very Nice Girl

Anna is studying opera at a conservatory in London and singing in a bar to make ends meet. That’s where Max finds her. He’s considerably older, very well fixed, a cool customer. Gradually (no, Anna, don’t do it!) he takes over her life and she becomes constrained by his demands and dependent on his money. A borrowed flat far from the messy women’s commune where she was living, cut off from her friends, and even school gets subsumed by her new life. It all comes crashing down, she takes a deep dive and seems to be recovering, but the last page puzzled me. (If you think you know what happened, let me know…)  I have a granddaughter who sings and especially enjoyed the material on the art and craft of creating opera.  

Hansel and Greta

Subtitled A Fairytale Revolution.  There’s nothing like a face-out on the shelves to grab my attention (aah, the serendipity of the library)— and I just had to see what a favorite author would do with this hoary old tale. First there’s spirited Greta (like Thunberg) and her logger father who loves trees.  His dead wife’s sister, GreedyGuts, is probably an ogre; she devours everything in sight and bellows for more. Dad dumps his job, they start planting seeds, a reluctantly peripatetic Willow Tree joins forces, a good witch rides a vacuum cleaner—so much fun! And stirring.  

The Last Thing He Told Me

Hannah’s only been married to Owen for a year. A sweet life in a Sausalito houseboat, her career as a furniture crafter going well. Not easy with resistant 16-year-old stepdaughter Bailey but they’re trying.  Then Owen disappears suddenly when the tech company he works for has a crisis, leaving a two word note: protect her. From what? Hannah searches for clues, and takes Bailey to Austin, TX, to follow up on dim memories before she and her dad moved west. A very suspenseful story emerges (which I love) but what especially grabbed me was the fierceness of her love for Bailey and the sacrifice she made to follow Owen’s wishes.