Last Night at the Telegraph Club (#34)

In Last Night at the Telegraph Club Malinda Lo created National Book Award for Young People’s Literature winner which aims to challenge pervasive perceptions of the 1950s in the United States, including stereotypes about Chinese Americans, the invisibility of the lesbian and gay community, and the role of women in the space program, and the reach of Red Scare paranoia on people’s day to day lives. It is also the story of two young women falling in love during their senior year of high school and navigating all the things that seemed destined to keep them apart.

So much of queer history is about reading between the lines and understanding the meaning behind coded words and actions. It helps create the “gal pal” problem in historical recounting – its good historical practice to not assign labels you cannot support, but with so much of the evidence going unnoticed by those who aren’t adequately trained or who are actively seeking to ignore it, people’s lived experiences get missed or erased. Lo’s research for this began with the desire to uncover the stories of the lesbians who lived in and around Chinatown in the 1950s, and her dedicated research shines through in the authenticity of the narrative she was able to craft.

I just wish I liked it better. I have a firm feeling this is a case of I’m not the audience Lo wrote this book for, in that I am no longer a young adult. There’s plenty of story for me – or anyone – here, thus my indecision of whether to round my 3.5 up or down, but the pacing felt slow to me, and part of that was in the way the layers of the story were laid in, the structures familiar to me now as hallmarks of YA. Which isn’t to say this isn’t well written, the opposite is true. But I can’t make myself give it a higher rating, but I am looking forward to discussing it for #CannonBookClub.

For the Love of April French (CBR14 #31)

For the Love of April French is an immensely readable book with a strong authorial voice that is a wonderful fluffy romance playing in the D/s kink realm. It’s the story of April and Dennis who have a temporary no-strings sex agreement, but Dennis is secretly trying to woo April, which is a great trope to build an emotions-first BDSM romance around.

Dennis and April are wonderfully flawed and human characters. Aimes writes with her characters humanities front and center. April and Dennis can be easily broken down into their demographics, but that dramatically undersells the characterization that is achieved. Those demographics matter – and the characters deal with them, and the ways they have built their experience of the world – but Aimes steadfastly builds a full picture of each character’s humanity, which is always a treat to find in any book, but especially in a debut.

This book is about a love story, but it’s also a story about growth. Each character actively chooses to change, to grow, including both going to therapy. Dennis’s path sees him starting the book very insecure after horrifically messing up his marriage which he takes responsibility for, and Aimes lets that be what we know – that he fucked up, there is no equivocating about it. Dennis gets a kink mentor and educates himself both about his preferred kink and issues surrounding trans women. Best of all when he screws up (because everyone screws up… again we’re human), he owns the error and does better. April is a trans woman with a fair amount of insecurity and trauma because the world is not a kind place to trans, genderqueer, and non-binary folks. She’s a smart, attractive heroine who is nevertheless unrepentantly insecure. She’s been hurt many times and has built a way of moving through the world designed to protect her from hoping for too much, and throughout the work we see her learn to accept the sort of care and support that she has been pouring into her friends for years, and more importantly accept it from her romantic partner.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (CBR14 #27)

I cried far more often during this 147-page read than I’m strictly comfortable with, but the wise characters in this book would reassure me that my being comfortable with something isn’t a pre-requisite for it having worth.

For the first third of this novella, we are with Sibling Dex getting a feel for them and the world they live in. Dex lives on the moon Panga where centuries before the robots of Panga gained self-awareness, laid down their tools, and recoiled from Factory life. They had brokered an understanding with the humans, known as the Parting Promise, where the continent of Panga was divided equally between the humans and the robots who wandered into the wilderness, and haven’t been seen since. Fast forward to now (and about a third of the way into the story) and the life of Sibling Dex, the tea monk (great job – wander the countryside offering comfort to others by providing a time to unload their emotions and rest with tea to restore), is upended by the arrival of a robot, Mosscap, there to honor the old promise of checking in. Mosscap cannot return until the question of “what do people need?” is answered and is unprepared for Sibling Dex’s distress and inability to provide the answer to that question because the answer depends on who you ask, when, and how.

What follows in the rest of the novella is Mosscap and Dex coming to an agreement, Dex will answer Mosscap’s questions to the best of their ability if Mosscap gets them safely to the Hermitage up the mountain deep in the wilderness where humans have left the land for the Robots. The plot here though, isn’t really the purpose. Psalm for the Wild-Built is yet another example of the character driven stories of which Chambers excels.  

We have Sibling Dex who is at a place, mentally and emotionally, where they are just tired. They are soul tired. I can relate. They had identified a purpose for their life, and then identified another one and did the hard work to make that new purpose happen, and then were able to excel at it. But it still left them with this aching within, a want of an undefinable more, a fixation on a thing they cannot have. It created a place within them that desperately needed the self-care that they so willingly offered to others but had forgotten in some fundamental way to give themselves.

Then we have Mosscap who volunteered to go alone into the unknown and report back. It didn’t have a plan other than to wander out of the wilderness until it came across a person, to be the first robot to do that in over two hundred years. Mosscap is a generalist, someone who is fascinated by everything. This inquisitiveness, this desire to discover, means it is uniquely placed to provide a sounding board that Sibling Dax needs, and to slowly discover the great mystery of the human condition.

Because this novella is a meditation on what we call the human condition. Chambers weaves together the struggle to find purpose, to know what our purpose even is, to find meaning in our lives both individually and in community to form a tapestry of personhood. Chambers captures what informs our natures and uses the small details that tell us so much about who we are, crafting vivid writing to discuss identity and personhood. All underpinned with unrelenting hope and connection, even when the characters aren’t sure it exists. Chambers makes for us a hymn, a psalm, for how we can choose to be. Like so many others I am very excited to see what comes next in A Prayer for the Crown-Shy.

Her Favorite Rebound and A Very Beery New Year (CBR14 #24 & 25)

Her Favorite Rebound

Sierra Wu is thirty-four, divorced, does not want children and is a constant disappointment to her family. They are horrified that she quit her engineering job (that she hated) to run a small greeting card store (that she loves) four years ago. Sierra is used to living a pretty small life, so the last thing she expected was being swept off her feet by Colton Sanders, the billionaire (think Jeff Bezos type). They’ve been together for a year, and despite his reputation with women, it’s going well, but she has yet to tell her family. There’s only one tiny problem: Jake Tong. A former friend and employee of Colton, the irritatingly handsome Jake tells Sierra to break up with Colton for her own good. She refuses, of course. Why should she trust Jake? But as she continues to bump into Jake, the attraction between them grows, and she starts wondering if he’s right about Colton, and then she must decide what to do.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jake and Sierra together. They work well as a couple and watching Jake live up to his promise to treat Sierra well soothed some very scratchy places in my heart. This book’s plot could be a tough sit, but Lau threads the needle carefully. Sierra and Jake begin the emotional side of their relationship while she’s still in a relationship with Colton, but by placing boundaries – and Jake accepting those boundaries – Sierra is able to take her time, and take the reader with her, through the process of ending one relationship and starting another. Even if she thinks its just a rebound, when its been obvious that there is much more here, it just had less than great timing.

This book is all about characters working through their emotions. Sierra’s relationship with Colton isn’t good, but it is also fulfilling a need for Sierra at the time. Through much of the book we are with Sierra as she unpacks what her relationship with Colton is, what her emotions about him are, can he be trusted, and is she happy. That question about happiness also extends to her family, who are quite awful overall. But the things she never has to question are if her work makes her happy, or if she’s attracted to Jake, and if he sees her in a way others don’t. We’re also with Jake as he is struck with seemingly instant love for Sierra the moment he sees her across the restaurant. He spends time deciding if that is even possible, and can he manage to demonstrate his emotions to her by respecting her boundaries – especially when he knows he can’t trust Colton.

The other major emotional beat here is worth and family expectations. Jake is recovering from working for Colton and tarnishing his soul in the pursuit of money. He is making amends for having helped a billionaire earn more at the expense of others. But he doesn’t feel he’s a good enough person, still, to be happy and at every turn his brother confirms that back to him. Sierra is made so miserable by her family by their expectations of who she should be that she has learned to accept less, to not need much of anything at all. She must find that she is worth happiness and someone who sees her as she is and is proud of her for becoming the person she wants to be.

Between those two things Jake and Sierra are a well-matched pair and this book works through the various things that are keeping them apart, and then the things that are keeping them from truly being together once they start a physical relationship. So why not more than four stars? The pacing in the chapters felt a bit off – sometimes hardly any time passed, sometimes weeks passed. I found myself wanting more of what we didn’t have on page, and for that reason I can’t rate this one any higher. But this is a story I am glad to have read, and that I’m glad Lau tackled writing. She works through getting her characters to let go of the shoulds, and that’s something many of us need to see reflected in what we read.

I received Her Favorite Rebound as an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

It publishes March 29, 2022

A Very Beery New Year

While working my way through my ARC of Her Favorite Rebound I remembered that I had another novella in the series waiting for me as a newsletter exclusive. Feeling in the mood for more Lau I settled in to run through this 54-page story and am I ever glad I did.

A Very Beery New Year brings us to Thursdays at Leslieville Craft Beer where software developer Gerald Nakamura goes after work to “socialize”, which by his definition involves sitting at a bar, surrounded by a room full of people reading a book. The bright spot of this ritual is when he exchanges a few words with the cute bartender, Kelsey Rye. For her part Kelsey is finding that she looks forward to Thursdays at four when Gerald walks through the door and finds herself attracted to the slightly gruff but ultimately kind man. As the months go by, their conversations get longer, and her excited rambling makes him smile – or they would if that was a thing he did. They start texting and getting to know each other but Gerald and Kelsey both doubt the other wants anything more than what they have – which one will be the one to be brave, and take the next step?

I loved this one, it’s a delightful Grumpy/Sunshine studded through with so much great mutual pining while also doing one of my favorite things in being told episodically over a year. I think Lau’s novella length works are my favorite of hers, she nails the pacing of these dead on. She also gives us just enough exposition to know these characters, we’ve met Kelsey in the Cider Bar Sisters Book Three, The Professor Next Door, but Gerald is new to those of us reading through the series. He is a major Grump; he could easily veer into unlikeable. But because Kelsey sees him for how much that Grump exterior surrounds a kind center, we as the reader get to as well. My heart was made happy whenever Gerald quietly supported Kelsey, by unquestioningly supporting her need to be estranged from her parents or telling her that she never has to be sorry for telling him a thing she’s excited about, no matter how many words it takes. I could easily have read another 200 pages of these two, but I’m also glad Lau capped it here. I suggest getting your hands on this one if you can, it’s a good one. (4.5 stars, rounded up.)

banned book thoughts

Banning books works.

Unfortunately.

On a number of levels.

It keeps books out of the hands of the people immediately effected by the ban.

It emboldens the challengers to go after more. To look beyond the books themselves to take further action against the represented groups.

I would like to say that the benefits of exposure to the challenged titles outweighs the damage, but I can’t. Because media attention is short-lived and successful challenges can lead to bans that left unchecked can keep those books off publicly accessible shelves for years or decades.

It is a tool of power. Power and control. In both the short and long term.

Worse yet, the ban doesn’t even have to hold, or exist for long. Merely being challenged will often pull a book out of circulation due to fear of dealing with the fallout of shelving these ‘bad’ books. Libraries in the United States are, by and large, publicly funded institutions which means that the money that puts books on shelves at all can come under fire if public opinion isn’t good. Quietly across the country boards and directors are making the choice to pre-emptively pull books off shelves, effectively silencing the authors and leaving the readers who need these books out in the cold.

A lot of the rhetoric flying around right now (February 2022) is full of people with good intentions doing feel good actions that provide no real redress to the actual problem. And that’s shitty, because they are acting in selfish ways instead of in selfless action. And as usual, its people who look like me doing the shitty thing on both sides.

I read banned books as a student, not because I knew to look for them, or that they were available to me, but because I had adults putting those options in front of me, occasionally at their own peril, and parents who were supportive of my reading and education broadly.

I read banned and challenged books as an adult because the idea that someone feels they have the right to decide what is acceptable to read, makes my skin crawl.

Some of the most beautiful reading experiences I have had are with banned books… because often banned and challenged books are telling deeply personal stories of the vagaries of this life that we are given. The idea that anyone ‘needs to be protected’ from truth is so rage inducing that I often cannot put it into words, even while actively seeking to read and review banned and challenged books all the time, even while planning to lead a book club about banned books this September.

Because why are books being banned or challenged right now?

Ostensibly the major complaints come down to whether a book is appropriate for its audience. Your mileage may vary on that on its face value. What it is really being used for is to keep books that don’t fit into someone’s view of what “children” or better yet “their children” should be exposed to. Because we don’t talk about those things.

Things like racism or racial conflict.

Or war.

Or genocide.

Or violence.

Or gender identity.

Or queer love.

Or what constitutes blasphemy.

But the world has all these things. Some in greater proportion to others, but they are all true.

And objective truth is more important than comfort, is more important than the propagandist forces that would tell you to be afraid of it. That are after accumulating power based on what they can make you afraid of, of whom they can paint as the villain making your life worse.

Because the thing to fear is living in the dark. Of not knowing truth and believing lies. Of creating boogeymen where none exist.

Because lies are the tools of the oppressors.

And people are just people, beautiful and complex, and fascinating.

Fight back. Don’t be afraid.

Meet Cute Club (CBR14 #15)

Last week the Twitter Discourse around Romance focused on fallout from a tweet by Jack Harbon about the intent of those outside a marginalized community writing exclusively about that community (he was specifically referring to women, often white women, writing only about queer men). Separate from the actual conversations that happened around that initial tweet, it made me realize that while I’ve read queer romance by queer women, non-binary authors, and those who identify as genderqueer I had not yet read a m/m romance written by a man. I decided to rectify that at once and went to see if there was a Jack Harbon book that looked good to me, because I might as well start with the person who made me conscious of my oversight (I had already put books by Alexis Hall and Cole McCade on my to read for this year but decided to hop Harbon to the front of the line).

Which brings me to Meet Cute Club, the titular book club run by Jordan Collins, who is struggling to keep this beloved part of his social life afloat. He loves romance novels, and he loves sharing that love with fellow readers. But as the months progress his book club is shedding members. The rest of his life isn’t faring much better apart from the time he spends with his beloved grandmother as he is trying and failing to make his case for a raise at his job that doesn’t exactly love but is stable and pays the bills. To help keep the book club afloat Jordan buys copies of all the books they read for his fellow members, provides snacks, and hosts in his own home and it isn’t helping his mood that the new part time bookseller at Jordan’s local indie bookstore is a frustratingly sarcastic handsome asshole who heckles him about the stack of romances he’s buying.

But Jordan gives Rex Bailey what for (several times in fact, a series of fun defenses of the genre for those of us who appreciate it as Jordan does), which in turn inspires Rex to show up at the cute boy’s house for a meeting of the book club to see what its really all about and if he can get Jordan’s sexy uptight demeanor out of his mind. Rex is only in town long enough to clean out and sell his recently deceased grandmother’s home so as a tentative friendship, which leads to dating, begins to develop Rex is as caught off guard as Jordan is by their connection, and they’ll both need to confront the challenges holding them back.  

Overall, I enjoyed the heck out of watching Jordan and Rex navigate their growing relationship. But there were a handful of pacing and POV issues that kept bringing it down to a three-star read from its four-star highs. Every so often Harbon would shortcut background information, for example how the Meet Cute Book Club started in the first place. I had some definite questions about the way this book club works, to be honest and none of them were answered. But more importantly, we don’t experience all the conversations to explain how each character gains that information or pieces together known information to come to a conclusion about their partner, sometimes we’re left to assume it’s in the text and phone conversations we don’t see, and sometimes there’s just no plausible way for them to have happened. Because both leads are unsure about what exactly is happening emotionally to match what is physically developing between them it feels like a big letdown, particularly as this is a first-person narration that switches between the leads (I noticed some of the POV switch issues others have in their reviews and other than some formatting changes needed I don’t think its as confusing as others did).

The book had some things to say about toxic relationships with parents, with what actual acceptance and love looks like, what pouring love into another person can mean and why it matters. It reminded me of Sally Thorne’s Second First Impressions thematically, and that is likely affecting my rating, as Thorne expertly paced out the emotional landscape between Ruthie and Teddy and it made me wish Harbon had given himself more space to give us more of the emotional landscape of the pair together in Meet Cute Club not just separately. But I can still absolutely recommend this 3.5 star read.

A Fake Girlfriend for Chinese New Year & A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day

When I read Donut Fall in Love two weeks ago I was reminded almost viscerally of two of Jackie Lau’s novellas from her Holidays with the Wongs series. The chemistry between Donut’s Ryan and Lindsay had the same sort of feeling that A Fake Girlfriend for Chinese New Year’s Zach and Jo did, and it made me want to revisit them, and with Chinese New Year this week (February 1st) I needed no further inducement to pick it back up and give myself a Monday evening treat. Once I did, I remembered that in my review of A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day back in 2020 I had wished that it had been told as one larger story with Fake Girlfriend, so I decided to go ahead and read them back to back and see how that effected my reactions.

It worked splendidly.

A Fake Girlfriend for Chinese New Year (Holidays with the Wongs, #3)

I had fond feelings for A Fake Girlfriend for Chinese New Year from my initial reading of it, but had rounded down to 3 stars from 3.5 as far as star ratings go (I have now rounded it up to 4 instead). In this novella Zach is afraid of a repeat blind date set-up by his mother and grandmother, still mortified from Thanksgiving.  His two older brothers are now in relationships so he feels that the pressure to also find a girlfriend will all be squarely focused on him (I appreciate how Lau makes this his fear and something not even on his family’s radar – no one is up to any shenanigans but him). To prevent attention he doesn’t want Zach approaches his friend Jo with a favor: would she be willing to pretend to be his girlfriend for a few weeks to keep the pressure off from his family. They both live in his hometown and have a friendship built on broken engagements and hobbies, so Zach thinks this is safe for them. What he doesn’t know if that Jo has secretly been falling for him for the past two years of their four-year friendship and that he has some feelings for her that he is being dumb about since he has sworn off relationships entirely since his broken engagement. Lau does a great job layering in the emotions and the natural progression that “fake” dating will have when two people do have a legitimate emotional connection, and the way it all builds to a crescendo across 95 pages while playing with both friends to lovers and fake relationship worked a charm for me.

A Big Surprise for Valentine's Day (Holidays with the Wongs, #4)

On the high of the ending of Fake Girlfriend the being dumped into a break-up prologue before a flashback of six weeks should have felt like being doused in cold water, instead in made me all the more ready to settle in and enjoy the parallel story of Amber and Sebastian in A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day. Amber is the youngest of the four Wong siblings and after a rough few years getting herself settled into her career and managing to date only terrible men, she gives herself a moratorium – no dating for now. She’s missing the physical connection, though, if not the emotional one and a run-in with Sebastian Lam in the grocery store family planning aisle finds them both with a partner for some no strings attached sex. Sebastian is newly back in the area after moving home following medical school, is the childhood best friend of Zach, and has a reputation for being the “good son” to Amber’s “wild child”.

I was rooting for this pair from their meet cute both times I’ve read this. Lau plays with Opposites Attract, although that’s more perceived than actual, as well as Older Brother’s Friend and Friends with Benefits. Amber is taking steps to correct missteps in her past, Sebastian is letting himself discover what he wants his life to be, and they are each working on healthy boundaries with their families While this is probably the steamiest of the novellas (with sex being the driver of the relationship at least initially) what I took away from this one the most this time is how quietly and steadfastly kind the leads are to each other throughout. Not to say there isn’t tension and some drama (this one does open with a big break-up) it still leaves room for a certain sweetness to balance the whole package.  

You should read these, but I strongly suggest that you start with the first novella in the series A Match Made for Thanksgiving and then just read them all in quick succession. It’s a great way to get acquainted with Lau and you’ll thank me.

And They Lived Happily Ever After (CBR14 #10)

And They Lived Happily Ever After

Representation on the page matters, and while finding representation that feels exactly like you can be some of the most affirming experiences out there, finding representation that speaks to a component of your life that isn’t exactly how you experience it is also incredibly important. Beharrie includes in her acknowledgements that a lot of what we see on the page in And They Lived Happily Ever After draws from her own experiences with Anxiety, and as usual, when an author so very obviously writes from a place of emotional truth the results have the possibility of being truly outstanding.

I have Anxiety and it looks almost nothing like Gaia’s does in the book. I don’t get classic panic attacks, and because of that it took well into my middle 30s to get it diagnosed and named so that I could start dealing with it actively – and even that only happened because I checked a box on an intake form, expecting it to be an ‘also ran’ to my depression, and not as it turns out the star of the show. Like Gaia though, I spent a long time thinking that this was just how I processed, accepting a certain amount of unspoken shame that I didn’t function like “everyone else”. Its this piece, this beautiful, delicate emotional piece – that is refracted in shame and guilt in Jake’s arc – that makes this such an important read.

But I should back up and tell you what this book is about. And They Lived Happily Ever After is the story of successful romance author Gaia Anders who has a secret: she experiences whatever she wrote that day in each night’s dreams, living it through the eyes of her protagonist and when she wakes up any changes that happened in the dream show up in her draft.  It started on her 18th birthday and after 12 years, and a childhood in the foster care system, Gaia now trusts the world in her books and dreams more than the real world. Enter into her real-world Jacob Scott, brother of her best friend Seth, who is a single-minded workaholic with his mind set on keeping the family business, and the family, from falling apart. After a blistering make-out with Gaia at Seth’s party he knows he’s going to have her on his mind, but he isn’t expecting to interact with her in his dreams (because who would?). He is however taken with Gaia, has always been a little infatuated with his brother’s best friend, and isn’t going to let a little magical dreaming get in the way of finding out what they can be to each other. Even if that means facing their fears and changing their lives, for the better.

As much as I loved this book (and I did) I’m going with four stars because the pacing was a little uneven for me. We spent a lot of time with Jake and Gaia in the early aftermath of the first time Jake experiences one of Gaia’s dreams with her, and from there we skip through time over the course of a couple months, but when and how the characters interact – and who they interact with – wasn’t always handled evenly. There are some major “aha” moments (from all of the major characters, not just our lead pair) that go zipping by. I did appreciate though how honestly Beharrie dealt with the vagaries of being seen at your lowest, of having to acknowledge that a problem even exists before you can begin to be ready to confront it, how there are all sorts of ways to be unhealthy in relationships, and some of those ways are coded as expected or wanted, but that doesn’t make them healthy. There’s also a great undercurrent of what we owe each other in relationships of all kinds.

Love & Other Disasters (CBR14 #3)

I received an ARC of Love & Other Disasters from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Love & Other Disasters publishes January 18th, 2022.

Love & Other Disasters

I love when you can tell that a book was written from an authentic place, that the author is taking their own feelings, their own emotions, and building out from there to tell an honest story that they hope will resonate with readers. Anita Kelly does just that in Love & Other Disasters and I’m so glad to have been able to spend time with it and its characters over the past several days. I was initially pulled in by its arrestingly pretty cover which I was pleased to discover is a faithful representation of the actual  characters.

Love & Other Disasters is an nb/f adult contemporary romance centered around contestants on a televised cooking show for non-professionals. There’s a significant cash prize for the winner, and it would make an immense difference in the lives of our leads Dahlia and London. Neither dream of becoming a professional chef, but each wants to take their love of cooking, and what it gives them, and turn it into something more. Anita Kelly built characters of equal footing on parallel arcs, and it serves the story so well – each are struggling with emotional baggage from their “real” lives, each have uncertainty waiting for them upon their return, each are not really sure what their next steps are, and each is hesitant about what even to do with all these emotions they are feeling about each other.

One of the dynamics I loved about this was that Dahlia and London don’t necessarily instantly fully grapple with their attitudes and attraction to one another but find that they are drawn to each other over time and have feelings that they can’t ignore, and everyone else has already noticed. Since the narrative is handed back and forth, we are also treated to each character’s inner monologue and motivations, which makes some scenes so funny (the cows!) and others so painful (the fight!). Kelly makes sure the reader has the information to understand the full emotional landscape of her characters, weaving it in as they go, and then drops the reader in to enjoy the fully realized ride.

This is Kelly’s full length debut, and it is a stunning work. It is also first in a series of three and I am SO intrigued by what will come next based on Anita Kelly’s website blurb and mood boards.

Eva Luna (CBR13 #77)

Eva Luna

It has been a few years since I last tackled an Allende work, but with tasks in both the Read Harder and Reading Women challenges about translated works (the former asking for non-European novel in translation, the latter asking specifically for a book by a South American author in translation) I had the perfect excuse to move Eva Luna up my to read list.

The amount of emotion, detail, and characterization that Allende weaves into her writing is simply astounding. It always takes me a long time to work through her novels, but that is not a bad thing. There is so much history, allegory, and personal stakes woven into the story that you want to spend the time, you want to give the book its due. Like The House of the Spirits each paragraph, each page, and each chapter in Eva Luna need time to be digested and understood.

The book follows Eva from her earliest years, moving from Eva’s description of her mother’s life, and her own conception. Eva’s mother dies when Eva is still young, and she is forced to fend for herself. From there we follow Eva as she faces the death of her mother’s employer the Professor and is forced to move on and eventually stumbles her way into the care of La Señora, the owner of a brothel, and then eventually on to Agua Santa, and then back to the city where she reunites with Melecio, now known as Mimí and takes back up with Huberto Naranjo a leader of a guerrilla unit fighting a revolution. In typical Allende style the country remains unnamed, and it doesn’t matter.  As time goes on, Eva realizes that Huberto is not the man for her. Throughout the novel a parallel narrative is told: the life of Rolf Carlé. As Rolf grows up, he becomes interested in reporting news and becomes a leading journalist, shooting film footage from the front line. Rolf films the guerrillas, meeting Huberto, and later Eva.

Eva Luna easily finds its place in Allende’s works which all involve young women and misfits of society who search for truth and love all while combating class conflicts and oppressive governments. The picaresque is combined with magical realism in Eva Luna, in which the title character survives one crisis after another with the aid of unseen powers and the force of her own imagination. Eva’s ability to induce others with her stories is her gift to the world, helping her deal with the difficulties that many women, like herself, faced in a tyrannical and explosive political environment.