Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Four Ms. Bradwells

This week I am highlighting a book that will require a long wait.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Four Ms. Bradwells
By Meg Waite Clayton
Publication Date: March 22, 2011

From Waite Clayton's website:

Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

Once again, Meg Waite Clayton writes inspiringly about the complex circumstances facing women and the heartfelt friendships that hold them together. Insightful and affecting, The Four Ms. Bradwells is also a captivating tale of how far people will go to protect the ones they love.

I really enjoyed the way Waite Clayton laced historical details into her last novel and her writing is engaging and thought-provoking.

What's your waiting on pick this week?

Monday, July 26, 2010

What I've Been Reading (and Not Reviewing), Part I

I've been reading constantly: on the subway in the morning, at lunch, on the subway home, and late into the evening. I've found myself enchanted by stories, drawn in by narratives, thinking long after I close a book. But as soon as I end one, I've been quickly picking up another, swept up anew and forgetting to pen some thoughts. I am going to provide some short reviews of some my recent reads. And I am also going to post some longer reviews for a handful of my recent reads - stay tuned!

1) The Kids Are All Right by Diana and Liz Welch

I literally devoured this book. I stayed up to about 4 in the morning, needing to finish. Once I finished the book, I was on the authors' website, searching for more answersl. I suppose that is the thing with reading memoir - afterwards you need to know how the story has turned out. When I read fiction I can choose to believe in a certain ending. But with memoir you get drawn into a spellbinding story and a need for closure.

This memoir is engaging, probing, fascinating. I think it helped me a little to understand why people get drawn into reality television: seeing other people's humanity is engaging in such a different way than fiction. The Kids are Alright is the story of four siblings who went from a storybook childhood in a beautiful house in Bedford New York to being split up and in unbearably precarious situations. First their handsome father dies in a car accident. The rumor mill leaves them with lingering questions. And the family's subsequent debt leaves them with even more. Then their soap opera actress mother who has had to learn how to support her four children alone, is diagnozed with cancer. While their mother works on a soap and receives treatment, the oldest experiements with drugs in college and the second oldest daughter takes on the role of mom to the youngest sister who is around six or seven. After their mother dies the older siblings (Amanda who is 19, Liz who is 16) are left deciding what will happen to their reduced family of four. Believing that the stability of their hometown is important, they choose to split up and place the youngest Diana (who is 7) with a family Liz used to babysit for. The brother is sent off to a boarding school for learning disabled boys but no one is willing to be his guardian until their mother's old friend Karen steps in.

I love the way this story is told in alternate voices. All four siblings pipe in, correcting and conflicting one another's stories. The style felt reminiscient to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

2) If I am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Love Story by Janine Latus
I have mixed feelings about this book. The story itself sounded fascinating. In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. "Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved," it read, "but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me..."

I found reading the book harrowing to read. I felt so soundly in the author's shoes that her own low self-esteem seemed to be taking up space in my own body. And yet I found it hard to believe that she took so much ongoing mental abuse from her husband. So maybe it wasn't her self esteem that I took on, but her discomfort. It was very discomforting at times to read this memoir. The story, while about a sister's loss of her sister, is really about explaining why Amy and Janine, two sisters wound up in a series of relationships with abusive men. The authors childhood was so different from my own, and it was fascinating to learn about a large Catholic family and individuals who couldn't assume they would attend college. I applaud the author for wanting to help raise awareness about domestic violence and I think she is a talented story-teller. But at times I found her so frustrating. She is willing to let all of her flaws hang out and I suppose that is brave. But its hard to understand someone who would accept daily weigh ins from their husband, or choose to so easily cede control about major decisions such as whether to have children or whether to have plastic surgery.

3) Saving CeCe Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

There was something incredibly charming about this story. I can't put my finger exactly on what it reminded me of. At moments it seemed Candidesque. It also reminded me of some sort of YA story or fairy tale. All of the female characters are memorable and the setting Savannah in the 1960s is fascinating. I would definitely say this is an engaging read with larger than life characters but it isn't particularly deep or thought-provoking.

4) Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the perspective provided about the unique experiences of second generation Vietnamese Americans (caught between two different worlds), as well as the experiences of "short" girls (and short men) living in a world designed for taller people and in need of the Luong Arm. Nguyen is a gifted writer. Interestingly, while this novel focuses on the contrasts between two disparate sisters--the older goody-goody and the "slacker," who never graduated college and made some questionable choices--something many other novels focus on including Jennifer Weiner's latest (which I will be reviewing soon!) it felt fresh and realistic without ever bordering on cliche. While I wanted to understand what propelled these two sisters in such different directions, I didn't question the reality. I loved that this book provided me with a front row view tour of the mid west (Michigan to be exact), the life of an immigration lawyer and the colors, behaviors and customs of Vietnamese Americans. This book swelled with an authenticity and vibrancy that made it a enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

5) Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood

I really enjoyed this story and it was a truly novel read for me since a Priest is a central character in the novel. At the heart of this novel is a man who is granted custody of his young niece, who has lost both her father and mother. He is a Father in church, but he becomes a father in every other sense when he takes in his young niece. While he is a central character and his love for his niece is so vividly evident, for most of the novel he is just a memory. His niece, now grown, is rooted to the town she formerly lived in with her beloved Uncle who she was taken away from at nine years old, shortly before he passed away. The adult niece, a guidance counselor married to a man she believes is about to leave, goes for a run in the rain and is hit by a car. While recovering in the hospital, she sees a ghost of her Uncle and the experience sets her on a path which leads her to revisit her childhood and the lies that structured her tumultuous childhood. I highly recommend this book. It was a surprising gem. The book is filled with imagery and tons of surprises. I was truly surprised with how much I came to enjoy the unfolding story.

6) This is How by M.J. Hyland

I am almost positive I've read Hyland's first novel. She is a highly praised author and while reluctant at first to pick up this novel, I found it engaging while sitting at the library and opening the narrative. I was truly shocked with the direction of this story. And I found the turns in the plot so abrupt and unexpected that I found myself disappointed the story was not going to progress in the direction I imagined. I found myself flipping around great a deal in the second half of the book, wanting closure for the story, even as I found it so vexing and off-putting. Maybe I missed something with this one, but I really can't say I enjoyed it.

7) The Season of Second Choices by Diane Meier

This is a story about a college professor who leaves life in NYC for a position at Amherst College, and a chance to reinvent herself. It is a coming of age story of a forty-eight year-old woman. Considering that my other blog is called adultelescence, this novel was truly designed for a reader like me. The main character is evidence that it's never too late for someone to change.

What I really enjoyed about this book is the way it melded diverse topics. As one of the blurbs on Amazon says: "Diane Meier's liberating novel values both the arcane scholarship of college professors and the practical, artistic insights of handymen and real estate agents." This novel truly is liberating in the way it thrusts together so many different elements of modern life. There is a motley cast of characters: "coyotes," middle-aged professors on the prowl for a fresh meat, a zany thirty-year old handyman with true talent who lives with his mother, single female professors who are cousins and live together, funny secretaries and small town eccentrics. There is discussion of a unique new curriculum, but also a focus on home repair. There is physical violence but also various layers of romance. And there are surprises at every turn.

Friday, July 23, 2010

By Accident by Susan Kelly

I just finished this book abuzz with thoughts. By Accident is a story about a family coping with the accidental death of their son, a teenager, who was set to embark on the next stage of his life. The novel begins with Whit's graduation from boarding school. And thus the beginning of the story is a beginning for Whit. I found it harrowing to know what was coming. We are introduced to Whit through his mother's eyes and so the reader views him as larger than life. He is the first born, who will set out for college. He is ripe and maturing - at a cusp, ready to move forward. Thus while the tenor of the graduation is celebratory, knowing more than the characters, knowing what will come, means the reader is hesitant to plow forward.

But the story barrels forward as the family prepares for a trip to their summer cottage. Mother and son set out in separate cars as the father and daughter are getting a ride later with close family friends. The family needs two cars at the cottage; it makes sense for the son to drive. Here it comes, I thought.

Kelly's writing is sparse, yet vivid. We understand Laura Lucas's inner thoughts. We get a full sense of the moments before. And yet the aftermath is less full. The actual accident is never detailed. Instead we, like Whit's own mother, do not see the accident happen. Kelly writes, Laura thinks: "He is simply, suddenly, not there."

Laura's grief is vivid and human. Susan Kelly clearly understands the thought process of a mother. She writes: "You think if you can get them past the conventional childhood perils, past drowning, past drinking Lysol, past closing themselves up inside refrigerators, past getting run over on their bikes on the way to school, that you are free and clear." I am sure if I was a mother I would nod in agreement. (Although potentially Jewish mothers are wired to see the dangers endlessly - the muggers and lurking strange men at every corner). Laura cannot move forward after Whit's death and instead stays inside all day watching the world through closed blinds. Her husband is more logical, less emotional; he wants her to stop "brooding." I know studies have shown that parents who suffer the loss of a child have a higher rate of divorce, and Kelly's evocative novel provides an explanation for this phenomenon. Laura and her husband Russ grieve in different ways. Their son's death shows how differently they have come to view life, their neighborhood, the world, family. Instead of reaching for each other they find solace in other people, other activities.

It is a young tree surgeon who is able to help Laura rejoin the world. Eliott Hacker becomes a stand-in son, a friend, an object of desire. I found Laura's response to Whit's death incredibly realistic. The loss of a child is unimaginable and it must be that much harder when the loss is so sudden, so seemingly preventable and at a point when Whit was truly coming into his own. Before his death, Whit says something about only having so many summers left before he must find a job and enter the working world. And Laura mourns deeply the fact that in reality Whit had even less left. There is such a rawness, a wrongness in a life cut short so soon after a milestone such as graduation. It is unnatural. It is a violent break in the normal life path. Of course losing a child is always unnatural, wrong. But there is something so tragic about a person about to set out on a pathway, and dying right before they reach that pathway.

I found this story so wonderfully compelling and poignant. So many of the details were lifelike, real, textured. The characters were complex and colored-in. The representation of life after loss so vivid. And I particularly liked that some of the chapters are told from the viewpoint of 10 year old Ebie, Whit's younger sister who loved him adoringly. I think my only criticism is that I wanted a fuller picture of the aftermath of the accident. I appreciate that Kelly left out the particular details - as those were irrelevant truly to the story. But I found myself wanting to know about the funeral, the reaction of the grandparents who sent a present for his graduation but are otherwise not mentioned. I was also curious about the reaction of Whit's peers. We get some sparse details about condolences sent by one classmate's parent, and about the reaction of Whit's childhood playmate who is Laura's goddaughter but no one else.

But, overall I appreciated the choices Kelly made as an author. I love the meaning that the title comes to take on at the end of the story. I also appreciated the various questions Kelly tackles. As the blurb stated: "What constitutes betrayal between husband and wife? Can a saviour be a a lover? And are either ever justified?" And additionally: "What is the line between friendship and desire? There was ultimately something incredibly refreshing in the honesty and pacing of this story. I randomly picked it up in the library without any knowledge of the author, and yet I so deeply enjoyed becoming spellbound by her words.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Stiltsville

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.

This week's pick:
by Susanna Daniel
Publication Date: August 3

This book caught my attention after reading Daniel's engaging essay on Slate - The Quiet Hell of 10 Years of Novel Writing. I immediately remembered that Joshua Henkin's Matrimony, took ten years as well - and I loved that book. A story that is crafted and developed for ten years is not likely to disappoint.

From Publisher's Weekly:
With its lush flora and constant sun, South Florida is the true star of Daniel's exquisite debut, which follows a marriage over the course of 30 years. In 1969, having traveled from Atlanta to Miami for a college friend's wedding, 26-year-old Frances Ellerby meets glamorous Miami native Marse Heiger, who introduces her to Dennis DuVals and his house on stilts in Biscayne Bay. Though Marse has set her cap for Dennis, he and Frances fall in love and marry within a year. "I had no idea then," Frances says, "what would happen to my love, what nourishment it would receive, how mighty it would grow." Dennis and Frances have a daughter, Margo, buy a house in Coral Gables, and their life together proceeds as a series of ups and downs, beautifully told from Frances's pensive, sharp perspective. As the years pass and Miami changes, so do Frances, Dennis, and Margo, and the nuances of their relationships shift and realign, drawing inexorably toward a moving resolution.

My mother and her siblings grew up in Miami beach, and my mother lived in Miami in the late 60s as well, so I am particularly intrigued by the book's setting and time period.

What is your waiting on pick this week? And what have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Something Red by Jennifer Gilmore

This book is a tremendous feat. I can only imagine how much research was required to accurately portray various historical and cultural details from the late 1970s. It is a time period I never fully examined before. Even as an American history major (who focused on modern America), I barely made it beyond 1972. But this book -- with its lyrical language and deeply developed characters-captures the zeitgeist of the time period. And so I learned some history while languishing inside an engaging story filled with such artful description.

The book focuses in on the disparate experiences of one nuclear family living in the suburbs of Washington DC, while also exploring the history that shaped each member of their extended family and the tenor of the time periods that shaped each individual. In shifting narration, we learn about the lives of Dennis, the father who works for the Department of Agriculture, Sharon, the mother who is also a caterer for all of Washington's major dinner parties, Benji the son who leaves behind his jock image and embraces rebellion and a hippy lifestyle while a student at Brandeis, and Vanessa, the teenage daughter who embraces punk, while struggling with an eating disorder. This book has everything: spy stories, radicalism, self-actualization group, infidelity, sexual discovery, drugs, family drama and major historical moments.

Sharon looks for meaning as she ferries along in a world changed by the absence of her son (who is away at college). Dennis begins to question his long held belief that it is possible to challenge the status quo from inside the government. Benji laments the fact that he is at Brandeis ten years too late, skips class to attend Grateful Dead concerts and follows the lead of his activist and voluptuous girlfriend. He finds passion in a class titled "American Protest!" which studies his own grandfather's actions, and eventually organizes a protest against the 1980 Olympics boycott. Vanessa, sullen and angsty, falls in love with the hearty sounds of punk and experiments sexually. She is constantly in need of more -- more attention and more food (which she later throws up).

Gilmore's style and craft are flawless, her attention to detail astounding. As someone who lives in DC I was fascinated by Gilmore's depictions of DC in the late 1970s/early 1980s. So much of the depictions remain true even if suburban teenagers no longer experiment in the same form. As someone obsessed with family history, I love the way Gilmore used history as a lens to examine the roots and ideology of one family. In truth this book was perfect for me as it combined many of my deepest interests: american history, family history, and oral history.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story

Excited to be back to book blogging, and to Waiting on Wednesday!

My "can't wait to read" selection is:

The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story
By Patti Callahan Henry
Publication Date: October 12, 2010

From BandN:

Jimmy Sullivan has been living on the road with his brother, Jack, and his band The Unknown Souls. Without a place to call home, Jimmy and Jack lead a nomadic life filled with music and anonymous cities. When they return to a place Jimmy never wants to see again – their old hometown of Seaboro, South Carolina – he falls in love with Charlotte Carrington.

With a soul now full of hope, Jimmy writes his first love song. When he performs it at a holiday concert to a standing ovation, the lyrics are dubbed the “Perfect Love Song,” so much so that Jimmy finds himself touring alongside famous country music stars - catapulted into a world where the trappings of fame and fortune reign supreme.

All too soon, the hope that had once inspired Jimmy to write such beautiful, genuine lyrics is overshadowed by what the song can do for him and his career. In his thirst for recognition, he agrees to miss his brother’s wedding in Ireland to sing at a Christmas Eve concert. And his ties with Charlotte seem to be ever so quickly fading away.

Alone on Christmas Eve in New York City, Jimmy finally sees – with a little help from some Christmas miracles – that his material gains are nothing compared to love, that he is losing all that really matters. Is it too late to find his way to Ireland, to his brother, and to love?

I'm not a big seasonal book fan, and normally any mention of Christmas miracles would have me place a book back on the shelf, but I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Callahan Henry's books.

Losing Charlotte by Heather Clay

Have you ever held a book in your hands and known you were going to treasure it? Sure, I read the review first, requested it from the library, but when I had to decide which of my six to tackle first I knew. Losing Charlotte with the running horse blurring amidst a deep green cover.

The heart of this story is one of the what ifs we all ponder - What happens when a woman dies after childbirth? It is unfathomable and tragic and all too real. A young woman grows round, incubates life (x2) and then suddenly dies. How does her husband care for these two twins while facing an unfathomable reality -- the reality he never considered? And what becomes of the young woman's family?

The characters in this story are real and nuanced. I understood Bruce -- a child who grew up in NYC with a Jewish mother. That is known to me. Knox and Charlotte, products of Kentucky and a horse breeding family are outside my world. But they were all rich and developed. Clay has a real sense for human detail, and a variety of lifestyles. She easily captured the realities of totally different subsets of people. She clearly has an eye for the bite of the real.

I loved what Clay chose to tell and even what she chose to leave out. The pacing of her story was spot on. And while the story unfolded in different directions a complete picture was crafted.

While one can assume from the blurb where the story is going -- it happens in a more human way. There is a true "real" element to a myriad of the scenes in the book.

As a reader, my heart broke for the motherless babies, and poor widowed Bruce. I loved the boy he once was and his unique narration of an event which occured during his formative years involving a friend who lost his mother (one of the instances where Clay chooses such amazing elements of the past to include). Having seen this loss through his eyes as a youngster, one can't help but feel deep empathy for the man he becomes.

I loved the emotion of the story. I was drawn in and hungry for closure. In the end I wanted more which is always a sign that I love a story.

I feel Clay understands people deeply. She does such an amazing job of relaying her characters complex thoughts. Towards the end I would have liked more of Bruce's narrating but I understand that Knox is the main storyteller.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

I loved this book until I found myself horrified by the direction of the story. I should have been prepared but I didn't understand how prophetic the title was, or that I should be prepared for true tragedy. The shock I felt could easily be avoided if you read a detailed review. I am glad I didn't know what was coming but it made the book so much harder to digest. I didn't want horrible things to happen to the family at the center of the book. I came to love them and I was distressed by the eventual tragedy which comes at the middle of the book.

Quindlen creates such full characters. A family: father, mother, three teenagers ( a set of boy fraternal twins and a daughter). Generic. And yet the characters are humanized, unique; they are the bold lines of a generic coloring book with the color filled in and flying off the page. The daughter is magical Ruby, who recovered from an eating disorder and displays enormous confidence and is willing to be different from her peers. She is artsy and a gifted writer. Part of her confidence and uniqueness is surprising considering the fact that she is also the girl who once had an eating disorder. Yes overachievers often try to seek control through not eating. My own experiences led me to find the extreme self-confidence inconsistent with the underlying causes of anorexia. But I suppose this characterization also made me consider the fact that anorexia is no longer the illness of a certain type of person.

I can also see how Quindlen's characters could seem cliche: anorexic daughter, depressed son and golden boy who excels at sports. I think possibly with the exception of Alex (the golden boy athlete) the characters are more fully developed.

Maybe I just chose to believe the characters were realistic and fully developed considering the fact that after reading it became so easy to see flaws in the development of the characters. the overworked mother who can never seem content. The parents who gave up their dreams for stable jobs that would support a family. But then again these are cliches for a reason.

I think mostly my problem with this novel was the resolution. It's hard to accept that the characters would simply exhibit such a level-headed acceptance of their loss. Yes, there was numbness and fear and disbelief and agonizing and seeking of professional help. But in the end the passage to normalcy seems too easy. i also wanted more of an explanation of some of the characters actions.

That being said, I devoured this book quickly. I didn't expect where it was going. And when I discovered the direction of the story i found myself so affected by the emotions created by such a tragedy. Even now I can't fathom how one recovers from such an event. Quindlen's attempt to figure this out is quite an exercise in creativity.

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom

I read this book probably around January or February. I loved it then and I can still vividly recall some of the characters.

Back then I wrote in my journal:
There is something magical about finding a new author you love. I'm not sure why I picked up Amy Bloom's latest short story collection. The colorful cover maybe. A recent pattern of reading short story collections possibly. I read the collection on a bus ride from NYC to DC, savoring the language, loving the character development, knowing I'd be requesting all of her works from the library. There are two sections of connected short stories--the first about middle aged professors who begin having an affair and the second about a white woman, a mother and stepmother to biracial children. In the latter, after her husband's death the woman's stepson seems to fall in love with her (she has been a part of his life since he was twelve). A surprising event occurs which will make some readers uncomfortable. And while it struck me as overly Oedipal and unbelievable, I came to see it as essential to the plot.

After initially writing the above paragrah, I learned that some of the Julia (the mother/step mother) and Lionel (the step son) stories were republished from Even a Blind Man Can See I Love You ( an earlier Bloom short story collection). I found it intriguing that Bloom revisited these characters, creating a full arc of family holidays, showing us the character's individual development, the development of the family and the way many things remained the same. I love that these characters were actually revisited over a passage of years.

I love Bloom's writing style and can't say enough how much I loved each of her stories. She captures the zeitgeist in her writing. She creates rich and believable characters. She uses language in such novel and evocative ways. Even almost seven months later I can recall specific details and passages. I can remember how happily I savored the language at the beginning of the first story in the collection. Back in January when I finished it I actually read the ending of one of the stories a loud to a group of friends gathered for a dinner party because I adored the language so much.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time (or at least that is what I thought when I read it almost two months ago). I devoured this book on the megabus to NYC (note: bolt bus is a thousand times better). I was immediately drawn in, but also immediately outraged. I found myself feeling deeply distressed, deeply angered by the injustice of the situation that Kim and her mother found themselves in. I literally had to call a friend at one point during my reading binge, as I felt so riled up by the unfair treatment suffered by the immigrants in this story. And that is the thing, the story was so human and real, that the injustice felt fresh and amplified. Knowing that Kwok's own story parallels the novel somewhat made it that much more heart-wrenching.

Girl in Translation provides a fascinating lens on immigrant life. I could imagine sharing it with my former students. While the main characters are Chinese the overall story speaks to an experiences shared by a variety of cultures. It speaks to the experience of immigrants who come to America expecting the modern day equivalent of streets paved with gold. It speaks to a world of abject poverty, where no one is there to translate the comments of your child's teachers or fight your landlord to ensure you have heat. Kim is left to be her mothers eyes and ears, and that leaves her in a position where she has no one to advocate for her against the elementary school teacher who belittles her or to help her show that she didn't cheat on an exam she scored incredibly high on. It gives her freedom but it also leaves her in a precarious position.

The book made me incredibly intrigued by Chinese culture. I love the way Kwok peppers the book with Chinese idioms and her detailed depictions of China town.

Laura Moriarty writes in her blurb: "I love how this book allowed me to see my own country, with all its cruelty and kindness, from a perspective so different from my own. I love how it invited me into the heart and mind of Kimberly Chang, whose hard choices will resonate with anyone who has sacrificed for a dream. Powerful storytelling kept me turning the pages quickly, but Kimberly's voice-so smart and clear-will stay with me for a long time."

Yes, yes, yes. What a different viewpoint on America, what a different viewpoint on the immigrant perspective.

Additionally, I found the chapters detailed to Kim's time at a fancy private school (while also working at a sweatshop) fascinating. Here is a child who didn't fall through the cracks in the New York City system (too many do) and somehow made it to a school that can provide her with a path to college, and there she is being accused of cheating when really she is just off the charts brilliant, while also finding a way to lose her OTHER status and being invited to a party by a rich popular boy who once teased her, and yet she is living a life as far on the spectrum as possible from these other students. The story seems to clearly enumerate that people are often able to hide their true realities and lead a double life and that it takes a totally different skill set for children of poverty to succeed in an upper class school.

I think I am still trying to figure out how I feel about the ending of the novel. Potentially I will have to read it again to figure out if I think the ending was too sudden or out of character. It didn't end the way I imagined but I was happy for that.

I highly recommend this book and would love to hear what others thought of it.