"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

February Books


Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister -- While waiting up for her son to get home one night, Jen witnesses a murder: her son knifes a guy in their yard! What a nightmare. Somehow Jen sleeps that night, and wakes up upstairs in her bed though she doesn't recall going up there. (She remembers last sitting on the couch.) Turns out, she wakes up the day before she saw her son knife a guy to death. Then, it happens again. Each day she gets to relive what happened before, though this time, she pays closer attention to details that she was too busy to see before. Pretty interesting and different.

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica -- Jessie is waiting for her mom, Eden, to die from cancer and the insomnia has her mind playing tricks on her. After her mom dies, Jessie is still unable to sleep so she tracks down clues to her identity and why her social security number belongs to a child who died when she was three. Parts of this book were annoying and I skimmed a page or two towards the end because the insomnia-induced hallucinations were getting old, but overall this was an OK book.

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins -- When Emily reconnects with her childhood friend, she agrees to spend the summer with Chess in Italy! Chess is a best-selling author of self-help books while Emily writes cozy murders for a decent living. While in the villa, Emily reads about a murder that took place in the mid-1970s and is inspired to write about it and solve a mystery. Pretty good story.

My Name is Selma by Selma van de Perre -- this is "The remarkable memoir of a Jewish resistance fighter and Ravensbrück survivor." Andrew got this book at the library and thought I'd like it so I read it. Interesting story by this Dutch lady.

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama -- a pretty fast read with some encouraging words about how to go higher and such. I enjoyed reading about her parents and daughters (the latter of whom were living together in Los Angeles when the book was written.)

This next bit is long so I'll note where the next book starts in case you want to skip all this China talk. 

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang -- This is one of the longest books I've read in quite a while and it has so many interesting things. I just decided to jot down a few things that stood out to me so far. A blogger friend Danielle mentioned that this was a book she and her mom enjoyed reading and discussing.  Her post about that is rather touching.

Sorry these notes are in such a disjointed way...I am doing them mainly to remind myself of things that were fairly shocking.  I suppose since Danielle and her mom enjoyed this book so much, I wanted to make a special effort to record some things. Note:  I started this on February 8th and finished on the 12th. I alternated with the Obama book while reading this one since that one is a library book.

Part of this book takes place as Japan is in control of China and World War II is in the background. In fact, the Chinese of her region cheered when the American bombs were dropped on the Japanese.

Greatgrandma -- Wu "Er-ya-tou"  (born 1888)
Grandma -- Yu-fang  (born 1909)
Mom -- Bao Qin/De-hong  (born 1931)
Dad -- Wang Yu (born 1921)
Author --  Er-hong/Jung  (born 1952)

So many interesting cultural things to me:

The author's grandma -- feet broken and bound which was extremely painful for her her whole life; married as a concubine to a general who left her soon after the wedding and didn't return for six years; she was threatened with having her child taken from her to be raised as the official wife's child, but she escaped. Married a Manchu doctor who was much older; his children strongly rejected to this marriage as they were older than she was and thought she was after his money; they didn't want to honor her as their new mother. In protest, the eldest son shot himself to make a point, and instead killed himself. Re: her great-grandfather who was fourteen and married to a 20 year old:  the author made the comment that "it was considered one of the duties of the wife to help bring up her husband." (pg. 22) 

Author's great-grandma was named Er-ya-tou, basically "Number Two Girl." (pg. 22)

There was a lot of other rather-interesting things, but then I started jotting down notes of the author's mom as she related them. She was against Japanese rule, and initially was fine with the Kuomintang officials, but later she was enamored by what she'd learned about Communism. In its more ideal form, it does sound pretty good when you are thinking you can get rid of some of these ridiculous and harmful traditions. So the author's mom ended up marrying a Communist with a pretty high position. Her husband wasn't the loving caring person she hoped for and some of that struggle is outlined. Such as when they were leaving her hometown for his (which was actually not done much), he was able to ride in a vehicle whereas she had to walk and carry her bedroll. She saw another woman being carried across rivers by her husband, yet her own husband wouldn't even take her bedroll in his jeep. He said he had earned this position and she had not, and for him to ease her burden would be unfair to the others. Later, when she had stabbing pains in her abdomen and asked her husband to take her home, he saw the driver was enjoying the movie or music and didn't want to disturb him. (Which is actually kind of thoughtful except for the fact that the lady was having a miscarriage and had to have a blood transfusion and hospital stay so... legit abdominal pain there. She hobbled home by herself since her husband wouldn't leave.) At times she was criticized for crying. People said she had "behaved like 'a precious lady from the exploiting classes.'" (pg. 144) Side note: I cry a lot so I suppose I'm a "precious lady," too??

When her mom traveled two months to see her daughter in her new home, word got around that she was cooking (not allowed) and making clothes for the upcoming baby (how dare the baby need new clothes? just use old ones). So the mother who'd traveled two months to get to her daughter's new home was forced to leave after only staying a month. The husband wouldn't make an exception for his family. Oh, also the author's mom was criticized for putting family first (pg. 164).

She was also criticized for wanting to wash too much (peasants rarely wash, why should you?) and since her husband was a higher-up person, he could wash with hot water. She would use his leftover water...how dare she?

Clearly these criticisms caught my eye!

Also, they had to get permission to marry - from the Party! The author notes that the Community Party was the new patriarch. (pg. 127)

Pages 240-307
In my reading today (February 9th), I learned about the author's parents mellowing in their beliefs, especially her father who always put Party over his family. The author tells of her privileged upbringing since her dad was a higher-up official, yet how she would shrink down in the car so no one would see her, and how her father applauded her doing this as it showed she didn't like having privileges.  Her dad said that they worked so that one day all people could have the privileges her family had.  Her parents got along better during this time and her mom wasn't as resentful of her father.

I smiled at the part where Chinese parents would tell their children to eat their food or whatever because the poor capitalist kids were starving.  One day her friend had a raincoat and Jung was envious, but later criticized herself for this "'bourgeois' tendency" thinking of "'all the children in the capitalist world - they can't even think of owning an umbrella!'"  (pg. 246)

The author admitted that her brother loved science and became enamored with the United States which caused her father to be "at a loss about how to respond." ""What can we do? This child is going to grow up to become a rightist!'" (pg. 248)

Jung talks about how Mao eventually declared grass, flowers, and pets as "bourgeois" so the children had to go around school pulling up blades of grass and destroying flowers. (pg. 270).  Pulling up grass was a common method of punishment and since the grass was stubborn, there was usually a ready supply of it to be pulled!

Though she joined the Red Guards, she relates how things they did didn't sit well with her including closing tea shops. One old man told her that he went there because he shared a room with two grandsons.  "I come up here for quiet," and Jung was ashamed. She didn't realize people lived like this and had to share a small space in this way. (pg. 291)

I didn't note much about the remaining pages though they were interesting as Mao had his various campaigns, and her loyal parents were denounced, tormented, detained, and sent to various parts of the country, separately. The family of 6, at one time, was in five different places throughout the country. Really interesting look at Jung's family, and how her parents changed in many ways over the years, and how her own views of Mao changed. It's hard to change your mind about someone revered like a god.

Towards the end of the book, the author wrote this which I shared on Facebook:

"In the days after Mao's death, I did a lot of thinking. I knew he was considered a philosopher, and I tried to think of what his 'philosophy' really was. It seemed to me that its central principle was the need - or the desire? - for perpetual conflict. The core of his thinking seemed to be that human struggles were the motivating force of history, and that in order to make history 'class enemies' had to be continuously created en masse. ...

But Mao's theory might just be the extension of his personality. He was, it seemed to me, really a restless fight promoter by nature, and good at it. He understood ugly human instincts such as envy and resentment, and knew how to mobilize them for his ends. He ruled by getting people to hate each other. In doing so, he got ordinary Chinese to carry out many of the tasks undertaken in other dictatorships by professional elites. Mao had managed to turn the people into the ultimate weapons of dictatorship. That was why under him there was no real equivalent of the KGB in China. There was no need. In bringing out and nourishing the worst in people, Mao had created a moral wasteland and a land of hatred."  (pg. 495-6)

Hahaha...seems I read this book in September 2012 as I blogged about it. Well, it was a good reread ten years later. I kept thinking the lady looked familiar, but I also read a book by her in 2018.


Life on the Mississippi by Rinker Buck -- This is one that Suzanne mentioned on her blog that she read in 2022. Last year I read another book by this guy at her recommendation (when he traveled the Oregon Trail by mule) so I decided to read this one. He had a flat bottom boat built which he and a variety of folks who joined him along the way sailed from the Ohio River down the Mississippi to New Orleans.  Some of the stuff was a bit boring to me, but mostly it was pretty good. I like when he pulled into river towns and locals would join him in the evenings. He went to a Pentecostal church's picnic while in New Madrid, Missouri, and such fun things. He met an interesting bunch of people along the way. I enjoyed the history of the rivers, and how it contributed to America's growth in good and bad ways.

Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb -- I've read most of her books by now, I think. This was one I got for Christmas that I'd had on my Amazon Wishlist. An ok book about Camille Claudel a French sculptor who learned under Auguste Rodin.

The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict -- An interesting look at World War II's beginnings from the viewpoints of Unity, Diana, and Nancy Mitford, the first two big-time fans and friends of Hitler. Pretty good book.

Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton -- When a neighborhood favorite Charlie goes missing. detective Elise King investigates. Only she's on medical leave so her investigation is a bit on the sly...until her department reinstates her. Pretty interesting story.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney -- As Amber lies in a coma, she hears voices: her husband and sister, the nurses, and a voice from her past. This book alternates between Amber being in the coma, as well as the days leading up to her hospitalization, plus a diary written twenty-some years ago. Pretty good, twisty tale.

My Wife Is Missing by D.J. Palmer -- When Michael gets back to the hotel room in New York City with the pizza his family is hungry for, he is startled to discover his wife and children aren't there. Especially when he sees that their suitcases are missing as well. Eventually Michael realizes his family left him - but why? 
Note to self as I post this on 2/28:  H36BD, DBF,III. I <3 U! 

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