Love and restraint: Thoughts on ‘Five Feet Apart’

Five Feet Apart - pool scene

Eh, so I don’t get out much. And I definitely don’t get to the movies often. But something about the previews for “Five Feet Apart” inspired me to request babysitting for two squirrelly toddlers and arrange a date night for us to get out on a Friday night to see this film.

It’s been a week, and I just keep thinking about it.

On the surface, at least, “Five Feet Apart” looks like another riff on “The Fault In Our Stars,” which I liked but don’t remember loving. (At least, I think that’s the case? Straight-up had to re-read my review, because that was 2014, friends. The ol’ brain ain’t the same post-kids.)

Given I’m prone to anxiety on a normal day, I definitely don’t need to throw existential characters with life-threatening diseases into the mix. But this movie — focused on Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), teens who meet in the hospital as they grapple with complications of cystic fibrosis — was not depressing. I mean, it certainly had its heart-tugging moments . . . and I was ugly-sniffling, for sure.

But after the lights came up, I was only a mini-disaster. I looked at my husband and thought, I’m a human. I’m alive. I have time.

What am I doing with it?

Five Feet Apart snow scene

In many ways, “Five Feet Apart” is about restraint. Will shouldn’t fall in love with Stella, but he does. Stella wants to let herself fall back, but it isn’t that simple. Their illness requires the pair to stay physically apart, lest they risk life-threatening cross infection.

Six feet (later: five feet, per Stella’s request). No holding hands. No hugging. No kissing. Absolutely no intimacy.

Think about it: two 17-year-olds who are all mixed up under that crazy, amazing, whacky first-love spell . . . and they cannot touch. Stella and Will’s relationship is carried out from a safe, respectable distance or through the modern marvels of FaceTime, though their hospital rooms are just a few doors apart.

Five Feet Apart chatting

There is electricity in the waiting. In the wondering. In the hoping-against-hope — though as an audience, we know this cannot happen. They don’t have the luxury of indulging their feelings. There is no sharp exhale of relief when their lips finally meet. Loose ends cannot be tied.

But man, I wanted them to tie.

Our on-demand, two-day-free-Prime-shipping lifestyles today don’t lend themselves to the restraint and sacrifice required of Will and Stella. That’s what stood out to me: we’re all told to go for what we want and make it happen!, but sometimes we can only be brave in the face of hard choices.

“Five Feet Apart” isn’t perfect; few movies are. The ending felt rushed and over-the-top after such a steady, sweet progression. But that ruined nothing. Sprouse does dark and broody so well, and his character is jaded and vulnerable with an innate goodness that hurts. Richardson’s Stella is nuanced, realistic, sweet and strong. I loved the two together. And I loved this movie.

The film has sparked conversation and controversy in and out of the cystic fibrosis community, and it’s not for me to weigh in. But I will say that I left the theater with a better, if imperfect understanding of a disease I’d known very little about (even working in healthcare marketing, where we pride ourselves on amassing medical knowledge). More than 30,000 Americans have CF, and funding is needed for ongoing research to find a cure.

The moral of the story is one we’ve heard a hundred, maybe a thousand times: life is short. Reach out. Take a chance. Be bold. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

But “Five Feet Apart” stood apart for me because of the ache in my chest and feel-feel-feelings it stirred up, both while watching and thinking about it again. And again. And again. I often reached over to press my fingers into my husband’s arm, the two of us trading glances that said wow this is good and so sad and man I love you. 

It’s haunting. It broke my heart . . . and healed it, too.

Can’t ask too much more of date night.


Book chat: ‘Who Do You Love’ by Jennifer Weiner

Who Do You LoveRachel Blum is an 8-year-old heart patient when she first meets Andy Landis at a Florida hospital. Andy arrives alone with a broken arm, capturing Rachel’s attention in the emergency room. She’s searching for a good story to tell an ill friend up on their regular floor, and she finds that — and more — in Andy.

Fast-forwarding nearly a decade, Rachel and Andy meet randomly while volunteering as teens and strike up a summer romance. Though together only a short time, they immediately bond despite their different circumstances. While Rachel grows up in Florida being doted upon in an affluent Jewish family, Andy is a biracial teen being raised by a hardworking, tough-to-please single mother in Philadelphia.

Andy’s solace — his salvation, really — comes through running. At the encouragement of a beloved neighbor and mentor, he survives his rough teen years with an end goal in mind: getting to — and winning at — the Olympics. As Rachel goes to college and pledges an exclusive sorority, Andy devotes his life to becoming a world-class runner.

As time and distance both separate and reunite them, the pair must decide what truly matters in life . . . and if they’re willing to go after it.

Jennifer Weiner’s Who Do You Love is a comfortable, fairly predictable read following two young lovers over the course of three decades. Their chance meeting at a hospital sets them up for a lifetime of serendipitous encounters, only some of which seemed realistic. It’s really a story about first love.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I feel the need to extol my love for Jennifer. She creates characters that make you feel, and her stories always suck me in with their casts of relatable — if occasionally frustrating — characters. She has a powerful ability to tap into the inner lives of women, and I greatly admire her ability to produce novels that really stick with you.

So why didn’t this one work for me?

It comes down to narrative voice. Rachel’s sections are told in first-person, allowing us to really get to know her, while Andy’s are third-person omniscient. While I could begin bonding with Rachel, I always felt removed from Andy . . . physically and mentally. His sections lacked soul. I felt as if we were going through the motions — all tell, no show — and couldn’t get excited about his victories nor mourn his failures. I wanted to, but there was just something . . . missing. The only time I really felt anything? When he’s interacting with Mr. Sills, a neighbor who takes Andy under his wing.

While I enjoyed seeing the interesting ways in which Rachel and Andy’s lives intersect, I found Rachel to be a pretty uninspiring heroine. We’re introduced to her as a young girl struggling to get out from under her parents’ anxious gazes, and I thought there was real potential there. Instead, Rachel spends much of the story projecting herself as a whiny sorority girl who doesn’t feel good enough for the Famous Andy Landis. And that got old.

Who Do You Love is not a bad story, but it’s not Weiner at her best. This was a different sort of novel for her: no elaborate cast of female characters; no exploration of friendships or sisterhood. We do get her trademark family dynamics, but it wasn’t enough to save the plot for me. I liked that she was trying something new, but I probably would have enjoyed this story more if it had been told exclusively from Rachel’s point of view. It lacked . . . sparkle. Pizzazz. Not heart, exactly, but warmth.

Will I come back to Jennifer? Absolutely. But if you’re new to her work, I would recommend Good In Bed or All Fall Down instead.

3 out of 5

Pub: 2015 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Complimentary copy provided by publisher for review consideration

Book chat: ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and HappilyHere’s what I love about Stephanie Perkins: her stories are romantic and realistic, adorable and heartbreaking. There is just the right amount of salt to balance the sweet — and though her characters do get a “happily ever after” (imagine that!), the road isn’t paved solely in diamonds. You have to stumble on a few ruts, too.

Isla and the Happily Ever After — the third in a trilogy of stories featuring independent but related characters — did not disappoint. Like Anna and Lola before her, Isla is a winning combination of strong and vulnerable. The middle of three sisters, our heroine struggles to find her place at her French boarding school — and, you know, the world at large — when Josh, a classmate on whom she’s nursed a serious crush for years, suddenly seems to notice her.

Really notice her.

Josh is a politician’s son — polished when necessary, dorky and artistic and brooding when the cameras are off. He devotes himself to art, working tirelessly on a graphic memoir panel by panel. Though they go to school together in Paris, Isla and Josh cross paths — and finally talk — during a serendipitous meeting on a rainy night in New York. When they reconnect again in France, everything changes.

I loved the sweet, heart-pounding development of their relationship: the little glances, the small smiles. Nerves, anticipation, bliss. It’s impossible to read Perkins’ latest and not remember the first time you fell in love — every element is there, right down to the sickening feeling that accompanies knowing you won’t see him or her for hours after you part. Days, even. The exquisite torture!

Though we know Isla and Josh are destined for each other (I mean, it’s right there in the title), their course is not smooth and untroubled. Isla’s loyalty to her best friend, Kurt, added nice contrast to the familiar “can girls and boys just be buddies?” trope. Their dynamic was unconventional — but I dug that. Beyond the romance at the heart of the story, Isla’s life is made colorful by the relationships she has with friends and family . . . and I felt her struggle to maintain a tight friendship with Kurt while falling in love, something to which many will relate.

While I struggled a bit to get into the story and felt the build-up dragged at points, I never considered giving up — and once I hit the last 100-ish pages, I flew like a jet to finish. In contrast to what she once believes, Isla is a dimensional character who feels like a friend . . . and Perkins’ tale of young love, hope and taking chances definitely resonated with me.

How did it stack up to Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door? Well, Anna remains my favorite heroine with the most pulse-racing story — but Isla would be a close second. Perkins’ leading ladies are vibrant, colorful and memorable . . . and I certainly won’t forget them. Longtime fans of the series will delight in cameos and a fulfilling ending to other characters’ arcs, too.

4 out of 5

Pub: August 2014 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Copy borrowed from my local library

Book chat: ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ by John Green

The Fault In Our StarsSo I finished John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars on Sunday. I bought it last week in anticipation of a long weekend away as a “treat” to myself, insofar as a book about kids with cancer can be a “treat.”

Also, despite loving my Kindle for years now, I still feel weird paying for e-books? I mostly read review copies or freebies or library loans. I guess that’s a terrible thing to admit . . . I mean, it’s just that they’re digital. Yes, I do pay for plenty of things I cannot physically hold, but I guess I’m just crotchety and still struggling to grasp the concept of paying real money for things that feel un-real.

Anyway. Clearly a post for another day.

The Fault In Our Stars has been on my radar for years due to its reputation as a tearjerker, I suppose. Sometimes I crave a good cry and don’t mind a depressing novel; they can be quite beautiful, after all. Plus, this is penned by Green, Great Lord of the Book/Young Adult World, and I’ve read and enjoyed several of his books. He’s darn witty and insightful.

Also, I saw him speak at the National Book Festival in 2012 . . . and yeah, he’s totally cute. Just feel that, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that.

Anyway. (Man, I’m a mess today.) Back to the actual book, friends. I have lots of thoughts about it, but . . . they’re scattered, disjointed. I went into this novel knowing it had been hyped into oblivion but is also loved fiercely by many readers — I mean, it’s been rated more than 1 million times on Goodreads.

One. Million. Times.

It’s hard to pick up a book you’ve heard so much about without rampant expectations. Like, for example, I expected to cry — a lot. I mean, the basic plot? Two teenage cancer survivors meet at a support group and fall in love. You know something ain’t going to end well, right? Even the title suggests it.

To my shock, I’ve managed to avoid spoilers all this time — no small feat given its 2012 publication date. And the accompanying movie released in June, which I’m now exceptionally eager to see.

So I won’t ruin it for you, either. Trust me.

But back to my Feelings. I loved Augustus because yeah, I think we’re supposed to. Almost engineered to. He’s cool, thoughtful, romantic, sweet . . . all attributes I typically love in a dude. Gus is also wise beyond his years — something that comes with having stared down death, I suppose — and utterly devoted to Hazel, our narrator, who is herself living with a cancer that actively decimates her lungs. Hazel requires constant oxygen delivered via a tank, her breathing shadow, and Gus accepts this.

Gus accepts her. And not just because her chopped-off locks and quiet confidence remind him of actress Natalie Portman.

Green’s tome is a story of life and death. Of life after death, and living well in the face of impending death. Though we all know we’re mortal beings, some of us must confront that fact much earlier than others. It’s awful, but it’s the truth. The subject matter is understandably heavy, and even in its buoyant moments — those sparkly moments of first love, as light as the champagne the two share — it’s there. The gravity weighing them down, the illness with its claws sunk deep into them both.

And yet, they love. They are. They will be.

The portrayal of Hazel’s parents, who are themselves fighting the good fight along with their daughter, also felt realistic and heartbreaking. Ditto the experiences of Augustus’ parents and the extended Waters clan. Even the peripheral characters — Isaac, a fellow cancer survivor who loses his sight; Hazel’s best friend, Kaitlyn, a fashionable and free teen who serves as her tenuous and final remaining link to the “healthy” and unbound world — serve a purpose and occasionally provide comedic relief.

There is so much in The Fault In Our Stars that felt both beautifully clear and unbelievably obtuse. I fluctuated between getting lost in Green’s deep thoughts and feeling completely discomfited by them. Our young lovers are both enamored with a fictional book called An Imperial Affliction, and learning the fate of its various characters via its alcoholic author in Amsterdam becomes an obsession for them.

I got it, but I didn’t always get it.

Still. Did I like The Fault In Our Stars? Absolutely. I’ve thought of little else since finishing. It was sad, yes — but also many things in between. I cried a little, but not as I expected to — and the finale wasn’t what I’d anticipated, either . . . in a good way? I think. It splintered me, but I’m still standing.

Though Augustus is obsessed with leaving a lasting mark on the world, The Fault In Our Stars is a powerful reminder that though our time here is limited, the impact we make on others — even if it’s merely one other — is more important. Lasting.

Love can only ever lead to suffering, to separation . . . but it’s worth it.

It has to be.

4 out of 5

Pub: 2012 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Digital review copy purchased by Meg

Book review: ‘The Bungalow’ by Sarah Jio

When her best friend announces she’s leaving to volunteer as a nurse in the heart of World War II, Anne Calloway doesn’t hesitate to join her. No matter that Anne is young and nearing her own wedding to a caring if bland sort of man. Seattle will always be home, Anne knows, but the opportunity to join Kitty in Bora-Bora is too exciting to forgo. Plus, everyone is joining up to serve our country — and shouldn’t she try to help the boys out there on the frontlines?

Postponing her nuptials, Anne journeys to Bora-Bora and begins the tiring, emotionally exhaustive work of caring for the men injured in the Pacific Rim. Always the rebellious one, Kitty wastes no time cavorting with the female-starved soldiers on the island. And Anne meets Westry Green, a charismatic and sensitive military man who shows her a seaside bungalow on a secluded strip of beach. With time, Anne’s connection to Westry only deepens — as does the mystery of who has committed a shocking murder nearby. And how Anne is to live with all that transpires.

Sarah Jio’s The Bungalow is a captivating, exciting read set in a tumultuous time in history. As a narrator, Anne is looking back on the events of 1942 through the patina of time. Now an elderly woman, Anne receives a letter from the past that reawakens many dormant thoughts about that sweltering year. At the encouragement of her granddaughter, Anne tells the story of Westry and Bora-Bora — and it’s startling how much of that time still haunts her. As more details are divulged, the past and present collide in some unexpected ways.

So here’s the thing: The Bungalow didn’t hold too many surprises for me. The plot hinges on some rather unbelievable coincidences and very heavy foreshadowing, and I didn’t feel an ounce of the shock I think I was supposed to experience. This typically irks me as a reader — all the obviousness — but you know what? I really liked his book. I read half of it sitting in a cafe, oblivious to all the noise and coffee-mug-clinking around me, then stayed up late to polish it off that same night.

Isn’t it funny how that happens?

As in her first book, The Violets of March, Jio masterfully transports us to a vulnerable point in American history. I was absolutely transfixed by Anne’s story, wondering endlessly how she was going to weigh her passionate love for Westry against the sturdy, dependable affection of Gerard (ack, even his name is so stuffy). Maybe because I was once in love with a Marine (or perhaps because I’m a sucker for first love in general), I definitely gobbled up the lovers’ saga.

Books set during World War II have such a beautiful, nostalgic feel to them, don’t they? Which is so funny, considering it was a war and all. I know my own grandparents wouldn’t necessarily reflect upon that specific time with longing, but I find myself fascinated with that era here in the twenty-first century. Despite the hardships and turmoil, life seemed simpler then. I envied Anne and Westry and the purity of their love — even if their journey was a difficult one.

Historical fiction fans and those with a penchant for romance — me! — will find The Bungalow charming and memorable. I also appreciated that by the end, loose ends were tied together; I’m getting tired of all these open-ended conclusions. I like answers, people. I don’t need to be smacked over the head with the obvious, mind you, but I don’t always enjoy being left to my own devices.

The Bungalow will release in paperback on Dec. 27. Check out the lovely book trailer, too.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0452297672 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’ by Stephanie Perkins

In her hometown of San Francisco, 17-year-old Delores “Lola” Nolan is used to standing out — and she prefers it that way. Between her multicolored wigs, outlandish dress and brilliant makeup, Lola attracts attention everywhere she goes. One such admirer is Max, her 22-year-old boyfriend . . . and Lola’s parents are none too happy about it.

But in the cocoon of her comfortable relationship with Max, Lola tries to forget about the first boy who stole her heart: Cricket Bell, her adorable and quirky former next-door neighbor. As Cricket’s twin sister enjoyed stardom as a rising talent in the figure skating world, the Bell family relocated years before . . . much to Lola’s relief. After their friendship soured, being around Cricket — her dear friend; maybe her first love — was torture.

But as soon as Lola gets Cricket off her mind, a moving truck reappears at the Victorian next door. Throw in a well-meaning best friend, over-the-top birth mother and a host of other difficulties and Lola’s life is quickly becoming chaos.

Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door, her sophomore novel and companion to the phenomenal Anna and the French Kiss, was a readable if ultimately flat story. After falling head over heels for Etienne St. Clair in Anna, I was fully prepared to go ga-ga over Cricket — and, you know, I did.

But who I didn’t — and couldn’t — fall for? Lola.

I’m not going to make this a “OMG the first book was so good and this one is just blah” sort of review, but that’s essentially how I feel. Though Lola certainly goes through a transformation from beginning to end, I found her to be a pretty ridiculous, self-centered narrator. I guess that’s how we’re supposed to feel, really, but it just didn’t endear her to me. The costumes and ridiculous makeup and seriously gross, sexual relationship with 22-year-old Max bothered me to the core. Though all the action happens off page, I felt completely skeeved out by the idea that a twenty-something rocker would seduce a teen girl. Creepy, weird and wrong.

And okay. Lola is a teen trying to find her way in the world, sure, and she’s certainly been dealt an unusual hand in life. Her birth mother is a recovering addict who floats in and out of her world — the one she shares with Andy and Nathan, her fathers. Norah’s abrupt reappearance in Lola’s life sends our narrator for a tailspin, and I don’t fault her for that. But her reactions to everything are just so exhausting and dramatic. Everything reduces her to tears or sends her into epic rage fits or has half the neighborhood peeking at her in befuddlement.

It’s just the hormones and teendom, I know, but it was . . . too much.

I loved Cricket but found it slightly unbelievable that he would devote so much time obsessing over . . . Lola. Opposites attract and all that, but he seems so adorably nerdy and sweet that Lola’s wild streak didn’t quite mesh for me. I was surprised to see so many appearances by St. Clair and Anna in this one, too, but every scene involves them talking about how in looooove they are and how “when you know, you know,” etc., and so on, and so forth. As Lola tries to figure out whether her heart lies with Max or the boy next door (and slight spoiler: honestly, do you really not know who she’ll pick?), she looks to Anna and St. Clair’s seemingly perfect relationship as a barometer.

I don’t know. I didn’t dislike this book — I read it very quickly — but it lacked the sparkle of Anna. Part of that is the switch in settings, I’d wager; I’m quickly on my way to becoming a francophile, and the Parisian scenes in Perkins’ debut are to die for. Though I love San Francisco, I’ve never left my “heart there,” so to speak. It didn’t captivate me the way that France did.

And, you know. Cricket is American. Cute — very cute — but American. And St. Clair is British. So in Meg’s Book of Hotness, St. Clair automatically wins.

Fans of Perkins’ first novel and young adult fiction might find Lola and the Boy Next Door to be a fun, if predictable, read. I appreciated the unique characters, but I didn’t want to crush this book in a hug the way I did with Anna.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0525423281 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program

Book review: ‘Girl In Translation’ by Jean Kwok

Kimberly Chang is just 11 years old when she journeys from Hong Kong to New York City with her mother, a tired single parent. Knowing little English and finding themselves completely at the mercy of Ma’s older sister, Aunt Paula, Kim and Ma are sequestered in a rat- and roach-infested apartment in a part of the city that is all but abandoned, and the pair are “graciously” given jobs at the sweatshop Aunt Paula manages.

The days are long and the work is endless. Once a stellar student in Hong Kong, the English/Chinese language barrier prevents Kim from following lessons in school. She muddles through classes, trying to ignore the remarks of racist teachers and classroom bullies — all the while barely holding her head above a sea of loneliness. Ma can’t possibly keep up with her work at the factory alone, so Kim shuffles between middle school and the sweatshop, helping as much as she can. But it never feels like enough.

The only bright spot in her otherwise isolated existence is Matt, the son of another factory worker. The two form a bond as they grow and work side by side, both dreaming of a better world. And Kim slowly makes friends with Annette, a red-haired and freckled classmate who is as much of an outcast as she. With time, hard work and perseverance, the Chang women slowly begin to emerge from their hardscrabble world. And maybe Mrs. Chang’s dream of a better life for Kimberly can still come true.

Jean Kwok’s Girl In Translation is a tender, heart wrenching and exquisitely detailed look at the immigrant experience for two Chinese women in the 1980s. Though Kim begins the novel as a preteen, we pass through years of the Changs’ life as they struggle with family dramas, prejudice and love.

Kim is an incredibly likable narrator — someone I cared for from the beginning. Her meddle is tested time and again, and I was shocked at how resilient she was. Despite setbacks and fear, she didn’t let teachers or students keep her from school. Though her English was poor in the beginning, Kim realizes she can only unlock her prison cell of a sub par education, terrible living conditions and loneliness by learning English. So she throws herself completely into the attempt and becomes her mother’s translator, too.

What struck me most about Kim was the seamless way in which she seems to become her mother’s caretaker. As Ma is exhausted from the factory work that barely supports them, Kim steps in to handle large projects. She becomes adept at bagging the garments on which her mother works, finding ways to create shortcuts and complete the tasks quickly. As Ma struggles to communicate in New York, her daughter handles tax bills, forms, school paperwork. She learns to sign her mother’s name before she can ever sign her own.

But the pressure gets to our heroine sometimes, of course, though it never breaks her. Kim’s successes felt like my successes, and I burst into tears after a breakthrough at school elevates her beyond her meager circumstances. Though hard to read at points, Kwok handles the Changs’ living situation realistically while still saving us the gruesome details lurking in the corners. Any mention of a rat scurrying in a darkened room is enough to get me shivering, but these were things that I felt I needed to know.

I guess I really related to Kim, too, because her story felt familiar. When I was in fourth grade, a young girl appeared at the desk next to mine. Her name was Ivy, my teacher told us, and she was from China; she was still learning English, and we were going to help her as much as we could. Though I grew up in a racially diverse area, I’d never met a Chinese kid before — and Ivy was a complete enigma. As I was teacher’s pet (sure, I’ll admit it), I was tapped to be Ivy’s assistant. Mrs. Aiken asked me to personally work with her on assignments and projects, always sure to include Ivy in whatever we were working on.

This position gave me serious clout in my fourth-grade classroom. Ivy was far from an outcast at our elementary school — she was a star. Everyone wanted to know about China and her family, and Ivy would exchange puzzled looks with me as the kids peppered her with questions. I couldn’t translate, of course, knowing no Chinese; but I could give her the universal look of, “Yeah, I’m just as confused as you are.” She seemed to appreciate that.

Over time, my bond with Ivy strengthened. She was 13, we finally learned, which shocked our class of 9-year-olds. Mrs. Aiken and I would sit with Ivy in our quiet classroom at lunch, working with her on English phrases. One special afternoon, we switched things up: Ivy worked with us on our Chinese. Another classmate and I were invited to sit with our teacher and Ivy during lunch and learn to use chopsticks, which seemed like the height of sophistication. I was in heaven.

I think about Ivy sometimes and wonder what happened to her. Like Kim, she was a bright girl who just needed a hand getting over the culture shock of being transplanted to a foreign land. Reading Girl In Translation, I felt like Annette — the buoyant girl who immediately befriends Kim, drawing her under her wing. And as the story progressed, I was glad that Annette didn’t eventually abandon our narrator when they reached high school and couldn’t be seen as “uncool.”

There wasn’t much to dislike about this book, which kept me reading at all hours. Kwok’s writing is subtle but beautiful, and it completely drew me into the Changs’ world. There were so many times that my heart hurt as the women faced dangerous or scary situations, armed only with their verve; so many things that could have wrecked them didn’t, and I marveled at that. By the final chapter, it felt like an epic saga to arrive where we did. And though Kim’s happy ending wasn’t what I expected, I still felt great peace.

Readers of literary fiction, contemporary fiction and immigrant stories will find much to love in the beautiful Girl In Translation, published in 2009 and still receiving accolades. Kimberly isn’t a character I’ll soon forget, and certain passages will stay with me for a long while.

4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1594485151 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher