girl in reverse

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I was interested in this book because I volunteer at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the author, Barbara Stuber, is a docent there and set a good portion of this book in the museum as well.

The story follows a young girl of Chinese descent who was adopted by a white family in the Kansas City area in the 1950s. It coincides with opening of a new exhibit in the Nelson in the Chinese Art section. As the girl fights prejudice from every front, she begins to look to her roots and find out what it means to be Chinese. Unfortunately, the story is a little predictable with her finding a new diverse group of friends, essentially creating a new family. However, the story did end up sucking me in and I was curious how the character would grow.

The main character, Lily, unfortunately follows the trend in young adult fiction currently where the lead female is essentially clueless and extremely insecure. She wanders around the plot completely unaware that the potential love interest is obviously into her and runs away from every situation convinced that the nice thing the person is saying is actually an insult. However, unlike other young adult fiction, the weak main character usually stays that way whereas this character did learn to stand up for what she wanted and learn to accept when people genuinely liked her.

I thought the most interesting aspect was the relationship, or lack thereof, with her adoptive parents. The parents tend to pretend everything is perfect, as I think was probably the case with most people in that era, and try to not see that their daughter is going through a huge change in her life. I would have like more resolution in that area. Lily ends up finding other people to identify with, and other than a brief conversation of understanding, she doesn’t seem to close the distance at all between herself and her parents.

Despite the somewhat predictability of the plot and the choppiness in the dialogue, I enjoyed this book. It was an interesting perspective and I enjoyed being able to identify the different Kansas City landmarks in it. Stuber does manage to move the plot along evenly, making for a quick read which helps guide your imagination to think of a different way of life, in a different time, yet in all the same places that I am in everyday.

wild: from lost to found on the pacific coast trail

Recently all I want to do is be outside. See trees. Trees are a big part of this ambition. Not just see a lot of trees, but be in a forest of mythical proportions.

This is not something I can accomplish right at this very moment, so I decided to read about it.

Wild is a memoir of Cheryl Strayed’s journey on the Pacific Coast Trail. She takes off on an epic adventure completely alone and wholly unprepared. It was the perfect book to read since it’s something I would want to do, but I am also unprepared and unwilling to put myself through the hardships. This book was like a too realistic daydream that didn’t skip out on the not fun parts.

Strayed is a vivid writer and doesn’t shy away from delving into some of the darkest parts of herself. There are no justifications; she admits to being dangerously unprepared, a selfish person, an adulteress, with an addictive personality. Her plan is to make herself a better person by hiking this trail, something everyone can identify with, but her time on the trail turns out to be less reflective and insightful and more about pain, deprivation, and, surprisingly, friendships with strangers.

While someone might find Strayed’s flighty personality and bad decisions to make for an annoying read, I enjoyed her straightforwardness. She does a wonderful job of grasping the emotion of a situation, so much so that I started crying on a crowded plan over a flashback about her mother’s horse. I don’t cry over books and movies.

Her flashbacks are emotional but her time on the trail is physical. Strayed describes the intricacies of hiking a trail as if you, the reader, are using her book to learn how to live on a trail. However, she doesn’t just tell you how she does things; her book tells the hardships one would face on the trail in gruesome detail. I’ll just say this: she lost six toenails. And she tells you about each time one goes. Nothing gets left out.

While her book is not a quick read, it is an interesting one. Detailed, descriptive, and utterly truthful, you feel as if you are prepared to go on your own adventure after reading (because really, just don’t do anything she did and things have to go just fine, right?).

gone girl

I had heard about this book from several sources, but never with an explanation of why I should read it. So when I went camping last weekend I got the book and started reading with absolutely no concept of what kind of book it even is and was completely surprised to find out it was a very psychological mystery. Now I love psychological mysteries, learning about the characters, figuring out motives, trying to ascertain what might happen next, or what the twist will be. I am usually not surprised, not because I am the best ever at these things, but because they are usually pretty predictable.

This book surprised me, and then kept surprising me. I did have a brief moment where I guessed what had happened, but I quickly threw the idea away because some other clues made me think that wasn’t plausible. Oh but it was. There are three parts to the book, and with each part my view of the book was completely changed. I am getting ahead of myself here, let’s start at the beginning. (also I promise no spoilers)

PART ONE

At first, I was a little less than impressed. I read a few chapters, which are split between husband and wife where the husband narrates a chapter and then you get a chapter from the missing wife’s diary and I got bogged down by the husband’s (Nick) over cliched writing style. So I flipped back to the jacket to read the summary of the story; I wanted to find out where they were going with this whole thing. It was completely off, I wish I hadn’t read it. I had already come to the conclusion that Nick was a lazy selfish human who might potentially be a killer, and the wife (Amy) was a loving, caring spouse who was concerned about their relationship failing; someone I could sympathize with on occasion. But the cover said that Amy’s diaries “could have put anyone dangerously on edge” and that Nick was the “Husband-of-the-year” which I did not see in the slightest. So I did not take away what they thought I would, but I don’t know where our signals got crossed.

However, the author, Gillian Flynn, did poke fun at Nick’s cliche-ness as he says at one point something to the effect of ‘I had become a writer’s worst nightmare, a cliche”. And once she got out of the “setting the stage” portion of the book her writing got more to the point and I got sucked in.

PART TWO

Now on to part two of the book, where my mind was completely blown. Everything I thought I knew about the characters was wrong, or at least most of everything I knew about them. Everything from the first part of the book was explained in a fascinating display or psychological insight, and any sympathy you felt for a character was immediately revoked and given to another. Basically, the second part was a complete negation of the first part. You find out that Nick was telling his side of the story in part one, and part two is Amy’s version of events. Which do you choose? (I think I can guess, it’s pretty obvious)

PART THREE

But in part three, that’s when things start to get messy. You now know the whole story, and you have certain feelings about how it should end, but it just isn’t happening how you thought. Part three is the truth. The first two parts were the two sides to the story, and in part three you get an objective, outside narrator’s “maybe they are both crazy” viewpoint. I don’t know how you will feel once you get to the end, but I’m of the opinion that everyone in that book was crazy…. and maybe everyone you know in real life is crazy too… and maybe you are! everyone is! it’s everywhere! you can’t trust anyone!

Or at least that’s how it was for me at three in the morning when I finished by lamplight in our silent tent. I highly suggest a read if you love delving into character motives (like I do!), just maybe leave it for the daytime hours when you won’t be dragged down with the whole mess.