Book Review: “The School of Essential Ingredients”

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“Life is beautiful. Some people just remind you of that more than others.”
― Erica Bauermeister, The School of Essential Ingredients

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My book club read this lovely title a couple of years ago, and it still stands out as one of my all-time favorite “foodie” novels.  Today I learned that the author has recently published its sequel, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed it, so I thought I would share a little bit about it with you.  I hope you’ll grab yourself a copy and when your done, please send me a note and share your thoughts.  Happy Reading!

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister  (Putnam Adult)

As a young girl, Lillian learned that by combining certain ingredients in the kitchen she could make a connection with her wounded and withdrawn mother.  As an adult, Lillian uses this gift to run a first-class restaurant as well as a weekly cooking class. On Monday evenings, students are allowed to conquer their fears in the kitchen as well as create delicious, simple food.  In doing so, each of them discovers what “essential ingredients” will not only improve their culinary skills, but also bring flavor to their lives. Told in a series of vignettes, readers will step into the personal struggles of each character and delight in the way stirring, slicing, smelling and tasting can inspire friendship and renewal. This tender novel will seduce your senses and inspire you to create loving menus with enticing ingredients. More importantly, through its tender glimpses into challenges of each character, it will encourage you to embrace your own abundance of small pleasures.  With captivating language and believable characters, this insightful novel will leave you as satisfied as a delicious meal.

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The Night Circus: For the Creative Book Club

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“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”  – Oscar Wilde

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“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.  But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.  True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.”  (Excerpted from:  http://erinmorgenstern.com/)

Do you need a great pick for your next book club?  Look no further…

The Night Circus is a magical book that will have your group talking into the night!  Without a doubt, it will be like no other book you’ve read before!  If you want to get creative, there are so many fun things you can do to make your guests feel as if they have entered:         Le Cirque des Rêves.

Invitations:  Most book clubs are pretty informal, but if you want to make this meeting a little more enticing, try coming up with a unique, circus themed invitation.  Check out these ones from Zazzle.  Not only are they circus-themed, but they are black, white and red – just like everything in the book!

black_white_circus_tent_with_red_ticket_birthday_invitation-rcc36fa3942de4545a2a683549b61b568_8dnm8_8byvr_512Be sure to invite your guests to wear Night Circus inspired clothing:  black, white, and of, course red!  As the Rêveurs, they should definitely wear a lovely red scarf!  This outfit is from Restyle, and it may be a little over the top.

754_3The gals in my book club would probably opt for something a little more casual, but we all love scarves!  This ruffled one from Etsy’s Maha Maha creations has a fun, circus-vibe, don’t you think?

il_570xN.430267579_8qsnDecorations:  Without a doubt, the decorations for your Night Circus party could  be out of this world.  However, if you have a real life, and can’t spend a fortune on decorations, here are a few ideas!

There were so many interesting tents at the circus, you could simply try to re-create one of them.  One of my favorite tents was “The Wishing Tree.”  Check out this tree from Kaboodle.  Wouldn’t it be fun to let your guests make a wish and light a candle, just like in the book?

large-71-metal-candle-tree-145One of the tents was papered with playing cards. It would be simple and easy to create a fun, playing-card garland to drape on the food table or across your fireplace.  This one came from Etsy’s Country Chiq.

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One of the most memorable tents was the Ice Garden.  Beautiful decorations could be made from clear vases, crystal-like accents, or perhaps these actual ice vases from HGTV.

ice_vase_2_lgOther decorating ideas that would fit with the book are:  mirrors, candles, bird cages, feathers, etc.

Food:  There are so many yummy foods that the characters enjoyed at the circus:  caramel corn, caramel apples, cinnamon twists, mulled cider and of course, the gourmet midnight dinners were feasts accompanied by decadent cakes and chocolate covered strawberries!  However, my favorite food at the carnival were the chocolate mice.  According to author, Erin Morgenstern, the mice were inspired by these ones from L.A. Burdick. Aren’t they adorable?

MiceTriangleThere are numerous chocolate mice recipes online.  Try this one from All Recipes.

133081Wouldn’t it be fun to let your guests enjoy yummy food on these amazing plates from Pottery Barn?  Perhaps you can find (or make) something similar!  The clock at the circus is an important part of the story, and time is something that affects the characters dramatically.  These would be perfect!

img15bPerhaps you want to add more circus flair by picking up some vintage popcorn bags from Etsy shop Spiral Sage.

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Activity: Many of the characters relied on the fortune telling abilities of Isobel, who discovered the secrets of others while keeping a very big secret about herself!  Set up a fun fortune teller’s table.  Get an “8-Ball” toy, buy a pack of Tarot Cards, spread out some tea-leaves. See what kind of fun you and your friends can have telling the future!  Sycamore Street Press has a lovely origami fortune teller party favor!  Remember these from when you were a kid?

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Discussion:  Well, we all hope that our book club gatherings end up with at least a little bit of discussion about the book, right?  Author, Erin Morgenstern, recommends the questions provided from the publisher at Random House.

Favors:  You probably couldn’t help going a bit overboard for this book club gathering, so why not send your guests off with a small token of your time together?  I think they would all love to settle in with a gooey caramel apple and your next book selection, don’t you? These ones are from Matisse Chocolatier, but you can try your hand at making your own!

applechocolateMissing Pieces Studio makes beautiful charms like this circus inspired beauty!

il_570xN.413758839_6ggdI hope your Night Circus book club gathering is as magical as the book. It just might last until midnight!

For the Creative Book Club: “The Thirteenth Day of Christmas”

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“Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”  –C.S. Lewis

(This is a quote from the book.  Marva gives Charlee’s dad his own special apron with this saying to honor his penchant for storytelling.)

“This new Christmas novel by New York Times bestselling author Jason F. Wright is filled with laughter, tenderness, and of course, hope as these delightful characters watch an old Christmas favorite turn into a  true Christmas miracle.”  Shadow Mountain Press

I recently reviewed this book for my upcoming article in Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas.  It’s not too early to start thinking about a good book for your book club’s holiday gathering!  This book is a fast read, and would be perfect for the busy season when many of us are caught up with holiday preparations.  So, if you want to make your next book club gathering extra-special…. here are some fun ideas!

Food: 

One of Marva’s favorite aprons from her collection was embroidered with the quote, “If life gives you lemons, throw them through the candy shop window and grab some taffy.” That’s not the only reference to candy in the book! Charlee’s father describes her hair as the color of “Hershey’s Kisses.”  Miss Marva fills her advent calendar with gumdrops (except for the 26th day, of course). Oh, and Charlee receives some yummy Milk Maid caramels as one of her secret gifts. Why not fill some sweet little candy dishes with saltwater taffy, Kisses, gumdrops and caramels and place them around the room for your guests to enjoy?

If your plan is to just serve munchies, don’t forget to fill some big bowls with popcorn.  After all, Marva and Charlee spent a beautiful afternoon decorating for Christmas which included stringing, and eating, popcorn!

If you want something more substantial, and you don’t want to try to recreate Miss Marva’s entire Thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings, perhaps you would like to make “Anything Goes Nachos” that the Alexander’s they enjoy when Charlee comes home from the hospital.

Decor:  This one’s easy!  Since the book is a Christmas story, it’s fitting to decorate for the holidays. However, in the book, it’s important for Marva to have Christmas lights and her nativity, so you won’t want to forget these.

In decorating for this book, you absolutely MUST have an advent calendar.  Can you find one with 26 days?  If so, that would be the ultimate tribute to Marva and Charlee!  If you don’t have one, perhaps you might want to splurge and give yourself an early gift.  The one pictured here is available from WilliamMarie Designs on Etsy.  Check it out!

Any decorations that pay homage to the “Twelve Days of Christmas” would also be appropriate.  I might not be able to resist this set of drinking glasses from The Sisters Pick on Etsy.

Finally, Miss Marva is very proud, both of her apron collection, and also her habit of hanging her clothes on the line to try.  How about hanging a string or wire across an open area, and using clothespins to display a collection of vintage aprons, or perhaps some cute ones made with lovely scrapbook paper.  Better yet, have each guest come to the meeting wearing an apron of her choice – with a prize for the one that Miss Marva would have appreciated the most!  Like this one from CreativeMama213 on Etsy….

Or this one from Sweet Magnolia’s Farm

Discussion:

* Let everyone in the group share a special holiday tradition.  Each of us has such unique and special ways to honor the season.  Why not share them with others?
*Talk about the ways you can, or already do, extend the attitude of Christmas beyond December 25.
*Tell about a special adult mentor or friend who made a difference to you when you were young.

Activity: 

In Charlee’s family, it was a birthday tradition to gather after dinner, and before cake, to say something that they had learned that year from the person celebrating his or her birthday.  This would be a fun, easy activity for book club.  Have each person choose another member of the group and share something they learned from her this past year.

Ask each member of the club to bring a gift inspired by the Traveling Elves during the “Thirteen Days of Christmas.”  Gather these gifts and deliver them to a children’s Christmas charity in your community.  What could they bring?  Rubber ducks, stuffed toy dogs, kazoos, a Big Bird stuffed animal, purple gloves, or perhaps even a stuffed monkey like Charlee’s beloved Melvin.

Gifts/Favors:

I’m sure everyone in your group would be honored to receive a lovely apron with a cute or wise saying on it.  Each time they put it on, they would be reminded of Marva and her selfless acts of kindness.  Or, you could create some of these mini-aprons from the blog Hostess with the Mostess in Christmas fabric and they could be used as little favors.

Feeling Crafty?  I’ll bet you could make something simple and special with these charms from Etsy shop Jewel Be Charmed.

Final Thoughts:

I hope your book club will enjoy this heartwarming book during this holiday season.  Ideally, each person who reads it will be inspired to do something kind for someone in need, and if it leads to your own version of the “Thirteen Days of Christmas”  all the better!  Perhaps a new tradition will begin this year — as a tribute to Marva Ferguson!

I hope you and your book club will enjoy this sweet, holiday story.  I would love to hear from you about your group’s discussion, and whether or not any of these creative ideas worked for you!  Happy Reading, and Happy Holidays!

Photo Credits:  <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/veggiefrog/2145862702/”>veggiefrog</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/unprose/67242158/”>unprose</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebastian_bergmann/334297130/”>Sebastian Bergmann</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/375042268/”>Thomas Hawk</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mukumbura/4180968389/”>Mukumbura</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

For the Creative Book Club: “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  ~Roger Caras

I just finished reading a book that has left me transported, moved and hesitant to start a new book because I don’t want to break the spell I’m under!  Have you ever read a book at exactly the right time in you life?  Well, that’s how I felt when I started this magnificent novel.  This book is about so many important things…. family relationships, loyalty, overcoming grief, and especially the important connections we form with our pets.  Having just said good-bye to our beloved seventeen year old Aussie, and adopting a puppy really connected me to this book in a meaningful way.

Unable to speak from birth, Edgar is a special boy who has found a way to feel completely normal helping his family raise and train the unique breed of dogs that they sell.  When tragedy strikes their family, Edgar must rely on his keen instincts, as well as his unshakable bond with his dogs, to seek the truth and find his own way in the world.

Favorite quote from the book:

“So much of the world was governed by chance… Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed… You swam in a river of chance and coincidence.  You clung to the happiest accidents– the rest you let float by.”  (p. 457)

Creative Book Club Ideas:

Food:  Edgar’s beloved dog, Almondine, is his best friend and protector.  Their bond goes beyond the ordinary.  So, why not choose an almondine recipe to share with your book club members? Simply put, almondine means “Garnished with almond slices.”  If your club enjoys a full meal together, there are numerous almondine recipes for chicken, vegetables or fish.  This one for citrus glazed swordfish almondine looks amazing!  If your club traditionally serves a dessert, try this delicious Strawberry Almondine treat!  OR perhaps you want to recreate the meal that Henry used to “lure” in Edgar and the pups while they watched from the field:  Root beer, baked beans, barbecued brats, potato salad, and lemon meringue pie.  Yummy!

Decor:  One of Edgar’s jobs is naming the new pups.  He relies on his dictionary to help him choose such important names as:  Baboo, Forte, Essay, and Tinder.  For a creative table decoration, take pages from an old dictionary and either remove them from the book or make photocopies to make simple place mats and/or coasters.  Check out this table runner for inspiration!  Or perhaps make some cute candle holders with canine inspired pictures and/or words.

Activity:  Take inspiration from this poster that illustrates different dog breeds and create your own display of dog pictures.  Give a prize to the guest who can identify the most breeds correctly.  OR  Ask guests to bring a picture of their dog  or a special dog they once had and put them on display.  This post from “How Does She” gives some really great ideas!  Be sure to give guests the chance to talk about their special dog(s) and tell a fun story.  Of course, don’t forget to take a look at the author’s website for background information and discussion questions.

Our beloved Hondo enjoying a high mountain lake

Gifts/Favors:  Edgar communicates entirely through sign-language and written notes.  Why not honor this part of the story by giving your book-club friends a token inspired by sign-language such as this charming pendant necklace.

  If you’re crafty, you can order a digital print of these charming images and make your own sign-language charms as favors.  This Etsy find is also a sweet, affordable gift idea – a Scrabble tile pendant that says “I Love You” in sign language.

Final Thoughts:  If you choose this title for your book club, please send me feedback on your discussion and if any of these ideas worked for your group.  I know you will have a lot to discuss, and your members will have several ideas to debate!

“The Art of Reading” with Joan Tapper

The Art of Reading

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

Photo credit: Gale Zucker

Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing an incredibly beautiful and absolutely inspiring book…. Craft Activism by Joan Tapper and Gale Zucker. This amazing book was selected in Amazon’s Best Books of 2011! (You can check out my more complete review here.)   After posting my review, I was delighted to hear from Joan, herself, and was not surprised to learn that as a writer, she is also an avid reader.  I thoroughly enjoyed her book, but I especially enjoy stopping by her blog from time to time to see some of the amazing projects that have been inspired by her book. (Seriously, it looks like she has the most interesting life!)  I know you will enjoy some of these fantastic creations as much as I do!  Among other topics, Joan has written about creativity, travel, and interesting places,  and is a sought-after editor who lends her skills to a wide variety of genres.  Check out her website to learn more about this talented writer.

Website:  Joan Tapper        Blog:  Craft Activism

What creativity do you share with the world?  I believe in the written word, and as a writer and editor have tried to promote excellence.

  • Book OR e-reader? book
  • Buy OR lend from the library? Often the library, but I’ll buy books I can’t find there or those I want to keep, especially books written by friends of mine
  • Hardcover OR paperback? both
  • One book at a time OR several? Usually one
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? Patience is a virtue
  • Bookmark or fold over the page corner? bookmark
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? To the bitter end
  • Laugh OR cry? Why choose
  • Cover Love:  I love the cover of …….. sorry too many choices

What is the next book on your stack of books to read?  I’ve got Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters (both passed along by a friend), Janna Malamud Smith’s My Father is a Book and Cynthia Ozick’s Dictation (courtesy of a book giveaway at the community college where my husband teaches) and Katherine Stewart’s The Good News Club, written by a friend and bought at a book-signing event.

How do you acquire the books you read?  I’ll reserve a book at the library when I read a promising review; that extends to popular mysteries and thrillers and literary novels. I’ll pick up a book at Chaucer’s, my local indy bookstore, for an upcoming book group meeting. Occasionally a friend will pass along a book. Online? On rare occasions.

How do you choose the books you read?  I follow certain authors, but I’m interested in many subjects, both fiction and non. When I read a review that sounds interesting, I’ll make a point to find and read it. But I also am delighted when members of my book group choose something I would never have thought of…a classic, science fiction, a science topic. I like being introduced to new writers and ideas.

Do you have a book that you love so much that you re-read it periodically?  You can put me in the Jane Austen club. I could read and reread Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion every year. Austen is sharp-eyed and precise in her use of language. And of course, you always know things will turn out well for the heroine. What a comfort!

What are the characteristics of your favorite books? I think I tend to like books whose authors exhibit a wry sense of humor and a generosity toward their characters, as well as an acute sense of place. That could mean Ann Taylor’s works, those by Alexander McCall Smith, Larry Shames’s Key West mysteries; it could mean Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Anna Karenina. Even a nonfiction work like Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks shares those qualities.

How do you fit reading into your busy life?  It’s not an issue. If reading is important – and it is – you find time to sit down for a few minutes and do it. I’ll start with newspapers at the breakfast table, a magazine story over lunch, and a book for at least a few minutes (and often more) at bedtime.

I am proud to say that I have actually read… Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time – both brilliant multivolume sagas. I took them on lengthy vacations many years ago and they filled the hours wonderfully.

I am in a book club and it goes something like this….  There are about 13 of us and we meet each month (first Wednesday) at a different house, which goes in alphabetical order. Hostess provides dinner (often memorably keyed to the book.) We eat and discuss. Everyone gets to have a say uninterrupted, then it’s a lively free for all. It’s a fairly literary group, with several writers and a publisher included, so opinions are strong. Then the hostess gets to choose the book for two months down the road, which gives us time to get it from the library and actually read it.

One of my favorite craft books is…. My own two, of course, with photographer Gale Zucker: Shear Spirit and Craft Activism.

Thank you, Joan, for sharing your love of reading with us!  Here’s to good books, good writing, and new friends!

A Good Book for the “In-Between” Week….

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“That my dear, is what makes a character interesting, their secrets.”                      — Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden.

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  The air of “vacation” is still in the air.  I”m still delighting on left-overs and cookies.  I don’t feel guilty about an extra cup of coffee in the morning, or staying in my pajamas a little while longer.  Ahhhhh….. I love the “In-Between” week. (I had never called it this before, but I heard Jo Packham use the term on Facebook, and I had to steal it!)  If you’re looking for the perfect book for a week such as this…. I highly recommend a personal favorite The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  It’s the perfect book for snuggling up by the Christmas tree.  It will have you reading into the night to see how all of the strands will come together.  Happy Holidays, and Happy Reading!

The Forgotten Garden is the perfect mix of drama, mystery, family-saga, and just a touch of romance.   The first World War is looming, and a little girl is found abandoned on a ship to Australia.  All she carries with her is a suitcase and a book of fairy tales. Jump a generation and a continent, and meet Cassandra, a woman who has suffered terrible tragedy in her life and more recently the loss of her beloved grandmother, Nell.  When Cassandra sets off to fulfill Nell’s dying request, she learns that her family history is more complex than she ever knew and that to unwrap all of the secrets, she will have to open up more than she ever thought she could.

True Grit – for the creative book club!

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“They tell me you are a man with true grit.”  -Mattie Ross, True Grit

Okay, is your book club like mine, and ready to try something unique, different, and not the typical “chick-lit?”  Look no further than True Grit by Charles Portis. This book has had a surge of popularity since the recent movie was released, but if you didn’t see the movie, and even if you did, this is a book not to be missed.  I can’t stress how thoroughly enjoyable it is!  My initial reaction was that it was easy to read, adventurous, and surprisingly funny.  Mattie Ross has to be one of the spunkiest, well-spoken and utterly fearless heroines in literature.  Another bonus of this book is that it’s relatively “tame” when it comes to content and language, and when you’re done, the feeling is that you’ve read something of a classic filled with good old-fashioned Americana. You would be surprised at how many people read this book when it was published in 1967 and describe it as one of their all-time favorites.  Get your book club to think outside the box and choose this book for its next read.  You will have tons of fun talking about Mattie and her unbelievable sense of justice, as well as Rooster and how completely un-refined, yet compulsively likeable, he is.  If you are a structured book club who follows a more rigid discussion format, there are lots of online discussion lists for this book.  One question to ask each guest:  “When in your life did you have to display, “True Grit?”  If you’re like my book club, you let the talking happen, and enjoy the food!

How do you get creative?

1.  Serve your guests hot coffee and if you can, get some old-fashioned blue enamelware dishes that look like you’re sitting around a campfire.

2.  Recipe ideas:  Grits! Chicken dumplings, cornbread and candied bacon.

3.  Use red bandanas for napkins to further enhance the “western” theme.

4.  The rooster motif can also be used in a creative way, as the main character is named Rooster.  Maybe include a rooster image on an invitation, or on handmade coasters.

5.  Can you find some horse decorations or imagery for decorations?  This would be appropriate, as Mattie and the men ride across the countryside in search of the outlaw Tom Chaney.  I found this one on Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/ManateesToyBox?ref=seller_info)

6.  Spurs and rope figure predominantly in the book.  Use these as charms and/or decorations.

7.  Do you want to send your guests home with a favor?  How about a red bandana tied with rope-like string and filled with individually wrapped taffy, as that is one of the ingredients in Rooster’s pack when they embarked on their mission.  Embellish it with a U.S. Marshall charm. I found this cute little one on amazon.com.

8.  Find some empty whisky bottles and set them on the table filled with wildflowers.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

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“I was born with a talent. Not for dance, or comedy, or anything so delightful.  I’ve always had a knack for school.”   — Kim, Girl in Translation

My book club just finished reading Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok.  In a nutshell, it was a hit. Sometimes we read a book, talk about it for five minutes, and then get sidetracked into other conversation.  However, this book had us talking.  This story of a young girl and her mother coming to the United States from China to seek a better life, is thought-provoking in the irony of what they actually encounter.  I don’t come from a part of the country that encounters many immigrants, nor do we see the kind of poverty that large cities do, so the conditions that this young girl faces are shocking.  So, you probably realize that Kim is not coming to the America she and her mother envision.  They endure hardship beyond measure, and one cannot help but be slightly remorseful for the luxuries we take for granted each day.  However, the story runs its course in a way that makes the reader realize that the American dream still exists for Kim, in that she eventually overcomes the oppression of her youth, takes advantage of the kindness of good people, and uses her natural talents to ultimately shine.  This is a quick read, but it will open your eyes and make you wonder why you ever complain about anything in your comfortable little life.  If you are going to choose this book for your reading group here are some ideas for bringing the book to your group:

1.  Serve hot tea and won-ton soup, both are featured in the novel.

2. Decorate the table with Chinese inspired china, tray and/or linens.

3.  As a favor for your guests, give them a Kuan Yin charm which can be purchased inexpensively from online bead stores.  In the novel, Matt wears this necklace every day. In the Chinese culture and the Buddhist culture, The Kuan Yin is known to bring health and good fortune to anyone who carries it. The novel says, “The Kuan Yin was carved with a multitude of arms, each hand holding a different tool.  People call her the goddess with an infinite number of arms to help all those in need.” (174) However in the end, Matt ends up giving his necklace to Kim as a way to pass this protection on to her.  Or you can use images of the Kuan Yin to make small notecards or  bookmarks for your guests.  (The image of this Kuan Yin is from:  http://store03.prostores.com/servlet/themonkeyking/the-1913/JADE-KWAN-YIN-THOUSAND/Detail)