Monday, October 31, 2011
This book was written by a friend from my freshmen dorm - I previously read and enjoyed his book Shakespeare's Sonnets, and I was eaget to read his new one set in Korea and based loosely on the life of his mother. The heroine of the novel, Soo-Ja Choi, is eager to move to Seoul and become a diplomat. But her family and tradition expect her to get married and have a family. In the hopes of tricking a man into making her dream come true, Soo-Ja marries the first option that comes along - a weak individual she is sure she can bend to her will. Instead, Soo-Ja finds herself at the mercy of cruel in-laws, and pining after the man she believes she should have married. Much of this book was painful to read. Soo-Jais trapped by decisions she makes as a very naive young woman - decisions made out of obligation and incomplete information, and they are decisions that end up affecting her entire family - financially and emotionally. But, throughout the story, I kept pulling for Soo-Ja, hoping that she would find a way to happiness - and finally change her fate, rather than simply enduring what she thinks life has thrust upon her. Of course, the fact that I know the author impacts my view of the novel - I loved it and am so impressed by Sam's writing and his courage in sharing it with the world. But, I think that my review would be the same even if I didn't know him. This Burns My Heart is filled with so many of the fears, anxieties, and hopes that I believe all women who long for independence hold in their hearts - and I am impressed that a male author was able to access those feelings so accurately. A definitely favorite for the year.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Dealing with loss is such a tricky business. But, I have found in the past that reading books about it from people wiser than I has given me perspective, and helped me better learn how to grieve my loss, while still honoring the wonderful memories I have of the people I wish were still here. Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking is probably the best example of a book I think everyone who has lost a loved one should read (though of course it does not cover all manner of loss). Gail Caldwell's memoir deals with the loss of a best friend. It took me awhile to get into this book. I had trouble identifying with the friendship between Caldwell and fellow writer, Caroline Knapp. They bond over their relationships with their dogs - and I think this is where couldn't connect- I don't have a pet, and while I recognize the importance of this bond, I have never experienced it. But, it is central to the friendship between these two women. Mostly, I found the first two-thirds of this book boring and tedious, and of course given the weighty subject matter, I felt guilty for thinking that - but because I couldn't identify with the relationship, I think I had a difficult time connecting with the obvious loss. Once Caroline dies (and obviously, you know she's going to from the get-go), it was then that I started to see Caldwell more as a human being with understandable emotions - her pain was real and her ability to express her attempts to cope with the loss became seemingly tangible.