Delia Ballenger is returning to Nashville to sell her dead sister’s house. She thought she’d successfully settled herself in another city, a safe dist...moreDelia Ballenger is returning to Nashville to sell her dead sister’s house. She thought she’d successfully settled herself in another city, a safe distance from her family and her unhappy past, but she’s about to learn that the past is like an undiscovered country, waiting to surprise you. Bowling Avenue is crazily, utterly delightful, a fun and funny read that will keep you happily off-balance and turning the pages for more. Like Delia, you’ll find yourself wondering how you came to be in this strangely crackpot place surrounded by these curious characters, but you’ll be oh-so glad that you found your way there.
The novel is populated by characters that are absolute gems. They appear in the story like icebergs; the ten-percent we see when they drift into view is their presentable face, their public persona. The other ninety percent emerges slowly, layer by layer, as we get to know each character’s hidden secret or shame. There is the dreamboat boyfriend who, it turns out, is the opposite of a dreamboat, with a complicated, heartbreaking past and an uncertain future. The mother who laced herself into a certain kind of life thirty years ago and is only starting to see that she might’ve been meant for something else entirely. The dead sister who, it turned out, was a bit of an enigma to the people who thought they knew her best.
Nashville figures as prominently in the story as any of its characters, but readers who are strangers to the city shouldn’t worry that they’ll feel like party-crashers. Within pages, you’ll feel like one of the houseguests in the story: chauffeured around the real Nashville of neighborhoods and families, not the Nashville of the music business. You get a sense of what really matters to the denizens of Nashville, not just what tourists come to see.
A great story, wonderfully told. It draws you in immediately, like meeting someone you hope will become a lifelong friend. If you are looking for a tender, warm and witty near-perfect read, this is it. (less)
A great piece of storytelling that accurately captures the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII: I was happy to receive an Advance Reader’s Co...moreA great piece of storytelling that accurately captures the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII: I was happy to receive an Advance Reader’s Copy of The Bridge of Scarlet Leaves because of my interest in this period. A Hapa myself, I learned about the internment from my father-in-law, who had been interned as a boy during the war, and his experiences led me and my husband to learn as much as we could about this complicated, sad episode of American history. While the Bridge of Scarlet Leaves follows the experience of a Caucasian bride of a Japanese-American man who chooses to follow her husband into the camps—a side of the story rarely told—the novel does a wonderful job capturing all sides of the story. Ms. McMorris is especially skilled at depicting the lives of Japanese-Americans at the time, from the complicated dynamics within families to faithfully showing daily life in the camps. The Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is ambitious, a mix of romance, historical, family saga and even war story, but Ms. McMorris does an outstanding job balancing her many tales and even her combat scenes are well done. A good choice if you’re looking for an all-around excellent read, and an even better book club choice.(less)
Loved it on so many levels. First and foremost, it's a great read. The story pulls you in and carries you along. A wonderful narrator, great character...moreLoved it on so many levels. First and foremost, it's a great read. The story pulls you in and carries you along. A wonderful narrator, great characters, a story that will resonate with anyone who looks back honesty at childhood.
But I keep admiring it for its technical brilliance. Which isn't to say it calls attention to its writerly aspects. It doesn't at all, but that's the amazing thing about it, like a brilliantly tailored piece of clothing, you never notice the seams, the craftsmanship. Not a dishonest word. The story appears to be told so effortlessly, but to achieve that purity of voice is such a hard feat. A tough story with tough characters but the author digs down hard, never takes the easy way out of a scene or a character, and the result is one of those rare books that gives the reader an honest look at life: what hand we're dealt, how we choose to deal with it. (less)
Another great book by Sarah Waters. It's hard to write horror well without being cliche but she has pulled it off and manages to leave the ending open...moreAnother great book by Sarah Waters. It's hard to write horror well without being cliche but she has pulled it off and manages to leave the ending open to debate. Highly recommended.(less)