Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Li, Yanagihara, and Kline

Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li
There's been a death. Shaoai has finally died of poisoning, after surviving a compromised existence for over 20 years. Boyang, Ruyu, and Moran were younger than Shaoai, but lived in the same quadrangle in Beijing at the time she was poisoned. Told alternately through their eyes, when they were teenagers and also as adults, Li's skillful weaving of their lives and how they were affected by Shaoai, the poisoning, and each other, is brilliantly done. I love the title.

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Norton Perina is a scientist who, because of lack of direction, agrees to a stint in Micronesia exploring an unknown tribe. Narrated by Perina, with detailed footnotes by his supporter and protege, Perina describes the day to day life of this tribe as well as the startling discovery that many of the members of the tribe live incredibly long lifespans. Though traveling with other scientists, Perina is the one who discovers why. After his return to the U.S., Perina ends up adopting dozens of native children, rescuing them from a life of destitution. Perina's narration of his work, and his life with the children has a dark and creepy slant. This was a good, dense, and somewhat disturbing, read.

Orphan Train: Novel by Christina Baker Kline
Molly is a teenager assigned to perform community service instead of serving time in juvenile hall. Her assignment is to help an older woman, Vivian, sort through her things so her family doesn't have to after she dies. Vivan and Molly have a tenuous relationship at first, Molly doesn't want to be there, and Vivian doesn't seem to want her there. As they sort through Vivian's things, and Vivian's story is revealed - how she came from Ireland to New York and then to the Midwest on the Orphan Train - their relationship changes and grows. I didn't know anything about the actual Orphan Train before I read Kline's book. Illuminating and a good read!


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