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My Reading List - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

There's good that can come out of being forgetful, you can enjoy things over and over again as if for the first time. I can definitely say this about Lisa See's novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I enjoyed reading this novel more the second time than I remember the first time. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is about family responsibility, women's friendships, and societal values and customs. Two young girls, Lily and Snow Flower, are paired for life as laotongs or "old same" because they are presumably a perfect match. Using a fan, the girls send messages to each other in the women's secret language of nu shu. The girls develop a deep friendship that gets them through years of suffering and hardship including footbinding. But, when Lily discovers she's been lied to by the matchmaker who had paired her with Snow Flower and is hurt by other perceived deceptions, she breaks all ties with Snow Flower. Years later, Lily discovers she has misunderstood Snow Flower's intentions and actions. But is is too late, Snow Flower was on her death bed. The story is Lily's recounting of the girls' lifes in a last letter to Snow Flower where she confesses her mistakes and asks for Snow White's forgiveness from the afterworld.

I loved this novel because it made me think about how important but fragile friendships are. Family, customs and society can threaten deep friendships but in the end, true friends prevail. I loved the line, "Obey, obey, obey, then do what you want."

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

The Earl in Black Armor by Nancy Blanton

Tumbling Blocksby Earlene Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

And The Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

After The Winter by Guadalupe Nettel

What You Have Heard is True - A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Roche

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Book Review

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

I had not read a fairy tale in a long time and it was such a treat to read this novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. An old man and his wife set out on a perilous journey to find their son who had left their village a long time before. They have nearly forgotten what their son looks like or why he left because a dense mist has engulfed their world and taken their memories. Along the way, they encounter several characters that help them reach their destination. Each page reveals more and more of the couples past and what has become of their son. Their journey is a metaphor for our crossing from this life to the next and all the baggage we carry along the way. At the end, we cross the river to the next life alone and without any possessions. Our memories, good and bad, make this life worth living. Love makes our journey bearable. Hope carries us forward into the afterlife.

After The Winter by Guadalupe Nettel

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." Milton's Paradise Lost

This is a story about two introspective individuals whose parallel lives converge for few short months.  Their individual stories reveal the human need for love and intimacy despite the character's strange way of revealing their humanness. I enjoyed that one of the characters is from Cuba, my homeland, and part of the story takes place in Paris, one of my favorite places in the world.

What You Have Heard Is True - A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forche

In this memoir Forche captures the months and years she spent immersed in El Salvador just before the Salvadoran Civil War started. She was invited to visit by a relative of a friend who for some reason she trusts and follows deep into El Salvador, its cities and country side. Her willingness to expose herself to danger leads her to discover what she never would have known had she stayed safely in her suburban life. Forche shares what she witnessed and challenges us to rethink our assumptions about justice, our country and our truths.  The memoir is beautifully written powerfully describing the misery of war and the injustices and excesses that lead to war.


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