BAMBOO PEOPLE by Mitali Perkins (Charlesbridge, July 2010). From the fantastic Mitali Perkin’s (RICKSHAW GIRL) comes the untold stories of the Karenin and Burmese people, currently living under military rule. Told from the perspectives of Chiko and Tu Reh, fifteen-year-old boys on either side of the conflict who are just trying to survive being thrust into violence and war against their wills and beliefs. Chiko’s father has been thrown in jail for protesting the military rule and in particular the violence against the Karenni people. Chiko is conscripted into the army where he learns that his book smarts aren’t the only kind of intelligence and how to start being a man. Tu Reh and his family have been forced into a refugee camp where they fight the Burmese from the jungle and try to stay alive. Circumstances force the two together and to forge an understanding. Perkin’s gives a engaging, real voices to her characters who pull you along with them on their often-terrifying ride through a tense situation. Perkin’s teaches readers about a world that exists today and about which we know very little as Westerners. But her message doesn’t feel clunky nor does it hit readers over the head. Instead, it shows us a slice of life that we should consider more closely and about which we should care. Check it out. Excellent for reluctant and guy readers.
As the ashes of ALA settle, I’ve come to realize there are 5,000 books on my nightstand, under the bed and around my Palm Beach Grandma-inspired abode waiting to be read and scrutinized. Crap. Well, sorry Mr. Math Professor, you’re gonna have to do some math problems about juggling for fun while I read. Summer of Love, my ass, Summer of Unread ARCs and a backlog of truly unintentionally funny books more like it. Unread books make me drink.
I’m only halfway through the engaging and humble (I mean that in a GOOD way) Commuters : a novel by Emily Gray Tedrowe. No spoilers in this review! Here’s the blurb:
At seventy-eight, Winnie Easton has finally found love again with Jerry Trevis, a wealthy Chicago businessman who has moved to the small, upstate town of Hartfield, New York, to begin his life anew. But their decision to buy one of the town’s biggest houses ignites anger and skepticism—as children and grandchildren take drastic actions to secure their own futures and endangered inheritances. With so much riding on Jerry’s wealth, a decline in his physical health forces hard decisions on the family, renewing old loyalties while creating surprising alliances.
First, let’s get this out of the way: Emily is super nice, a Betsy Tacy fan and wears awesome glasses. So I love her already. In fact, it’s kinda worrisome when you meet someone as genuinely lovely as Emily because WHAT IF HER BOOK SUCKS? It doesn’t. Phew.
A perfect book club read, or beach read for those wanting something challenging and with emotional texture, or book to pass to your sister-in-law or great-aunt, or to get your teenage daughter reading more, Commuters is quite literally a book with something for nearly everyone. Tedrowe deftly handles her squirrely cast of multi-generational, multi-family characters with finesse. Unlike most books of this ilk, Tedrowe wisely realizes that simplicity is key in communicating the complex emotions and thoughts her characters experience as Jerry and Winnie blend their families with their sweet, unorthodox love. Instead of making every one literally a “character” full of over-the-top quirks, kookiness or odd habits, Tedrowe creates realistic, individualistic but identifiable PEOPLE. In a literary time when three-ring circuses seem to reign, Tedrowe’s down-to-earth, but careful words feel fresh and most welcome to weary readers.
Buy this book for yourself and some nearest dearests with whom you want to have an intelligent and/or gossipy conversation about characters in situations that will stay with you.
And I’d say this even if Emily weren’t so damn nice.