“Look for signs of us in the world around you – the leaves, the clouds, the birds.”
27 Bookers including one guest, Chuck Turner’s daughter Amy Anderssen, dodged a scattering of raindrops on our way to Rokhshie Malone’s for this month’s meeting. It was a perfect setting for this novel and we thank Rokhsie for opening her home, providing “themed” snacks including fortune cookies, as well as delicious treats for those who skipped breakfast. We appreciate everyone bringing flowers for Jane Freer’s Easter parade and thank Jean Alexander for spearheading this project. Love dripped from every bloom and we hope Jane will feel the extent of our friendship.
Water plays a significant role in The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, as it was the site of great tragedy and healing. Often the type of water in a story is as important as the water reference itself. Rivers are constantly moving and follow a distinct path, often representing the flow of life or fertility. References to the ocean signify overcoming obstacles or abysses dragging characters into deep depths of the waters. Lakes are used when characters face great decisions or offer deep introspection. Water in a story is powerful and has the ability to free characters as well as claim them. Life cannot exist without water. Humans and the Earth are each 80% water. We are water and water is us.
Mei Lien cherished time at the shoreline. Alone with the spirits she embraced who she was and where she had come from. It was an opportunity to immerse herself in memories. Her offerings, two apples, two packages of cold rice tied with five ribbons representing the five elements, blue for water, red for fire, black for wood, white for metal, and yellow for earth sailed in bark boats to sea warding off water dragons and providing sustenance to the spirits of her father and grandmother. Bookers enjoyed a moment of silence to center our thoughts…a drop of water causes a ripple…the ripple becomes a wave…then the wave carries momentum until the water is smooth again. It is the circle of life before our eyes.
The author, Kelli Estes, while researching material came across a story about a smuggler fleeing a revenue cutter because his cargo consisted of illegal Chinese immigrants. He bashed their heads and dumped their bodies overboard to escape monetary penalties. This was the basis for the story but using literary license, she placed Mei Lien and her family on board that carrier. Immigration laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Geary Act of 1892 allowed the United States to exclude people based on their Chinese race. 350 Seattle Chinese were driven out of town on a steamer bound for San Francisco. The Governor intervened, a judge declaring martial law and each passenger was informed of their right to leave or stay. Those who left arrived safely in San Francisco. Those who stayed were protected. Ms. Estes chose Seattle for her story to honor all those whose lives were taken in other cities because of the anti-Chinese sentiment raging in the Country.
Pat Faherty, dressed in a kimono, led the review of this historical romance novel set on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan chain of islands at the tip of Washington state. The novel followed a dual storyline from the late 1880s to present day. Mei Lien, a young Chinese girl born in the United States lived in Seattle at the time of the anti-Chinese movement fueled by fear that the Chinese people were taking American jobs. Aboard a ship supposedly bound for China, Mei Lien learns the fate of those on board and in the ultimate act of love, her father saves her life by pushing her overboard forcing her to find her destiny on her own. The contemporary story of Inara Erickson began when she inherited her family’s estate on Orcas Island, her late aunt hoping she would turn the property into a bed and breakfast. Inara had followed a career path that would please her corporate father, but in the end knew she was to follow her heart and choose her own destiny. Both women suffered great losses, Inara’s tied to her mother’s death, Mei Lien’s to the death of her father, grandmother, and her innocence. Within the small community in which they lived, both women separated by a hundred years end up being connected by fate, a hotel, and an embroidered sleeve of silk. Pat ended her review with a stuffed seal peeking out of her kimono reminding us of the symbolism of the continuous presence of Mei Lien’s departed grandmother in the characters of the novel. Very well done Ms. Faherty!!
The majority of Bookers in attendance loved the story, but a few who did not felt it was contrived, more in line with a Harlequin romance novel with too many coincidences and clichés, with the story feeling predictable. The author admits to writing the book as if each were separate novels. She wrote Mei Lien’s story first, then Inara’s which might account for some reviewers commenting that it seemed disjointed. We talked about what you would do to save your child’s life, the calming qualities of the water, and personal stories related to the mystical healing attribute of water itself as documented in the new therapy for those veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was a great meeting and discussion and as always, we all share respect for our reading differences and preferences…all having our personal cups of tea in reading and in life. Thanks to everyone for participating and supporting our grand book club!
On the business side:
Bookers’ book donations for the Pinnacle free lending library have been delivered. Many thanks to Bonnie Magee for handling this transfer and Dee Dee has promised to add something to the newsletter announcing this
We hope by our May meeting to have a definite answer on our summer read. We’ll keep you posted on the progress of Life in a Box and others being considered to entertain us during our summer break from meeting….not reading!
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
Wed. May 3rd NOTE CHANGE OF DATE
Orphan # 8 by Kim van Alkemade
Reviewer: Patty Evans
Wine & Cheese evening meeting, 6:00 p.m.
Home of Melanie Prebis.
Bonnie Magee, Food Czar
Summer Read: To be determined
Mei Lien believed in the foretelling signs of mystical powers. My fortune cookie read, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt.