1. the local news by miriam gershow
the main character of this book, nerdy lydia, takes us back to the year she was 15, when her popular older brother goes missing. it focuses on her instant and uncomfortable turn in the spotlight...and how this horrible event ripples out from her family into her community and beyond. lydia is forced to grieve publicly for a brother that she really didn't like very much. i mean, how much did you like your siblings when you were a teen? i think lydia grieves mostly for a future with her brother that will never exist...for the caring man he does not have the chance to grow into.
2. the pacific and other stories by mark helprin
sometimes i get mad at short stories because i want more...but these were just perfect! one story that really stuck with me was about a contractor in new york who gives all his time and money to make-over a home for a woman who lost her husband in 9-11. it was his way of expressing to her his love and honor. the story was really moving (i was full on crying by the end) and so much more nuanced than those reality makeover shows!
3. dreams of joy by lisa see
i am a big fan of historical fiction, but i realized lately that i have been reading a lot of american and european influenced fiction. this book was a break from that by whisking me into 1957 shanghai...with wonderful descriptions of the sites, smells and sounds of chinese life during this period. the main character, joy, is a chinese-american girl who decides impulsively to flee california and to find her birth-father while also helping mao's red china. i was swept along with joy as she realizes things are not as she imagined. luckily her mother, pearl, also follows her to china to try and get her to come back home. fundamentally, beyond the travel and adventure, this story is really about the love between a mother and a daughter. it also touches upon a very dark period in china's history called the the 'great leap forward" which resulted in over 45 million deaths due to famine...these passages were pretty brutal. (i did not realize until i did the amazon link that this book is a sequel to "shanghai girls"...about pearl and her sister may...totally on my book list!)