Tuesdays with Morrie

by Mitchell Albom

This is a gem of a book.  I can’t say I wish I have met a teacher like Morrie, because I may have but just didn’t get to talk to him long enough to garner such wisdom.  I suspect that most people, especially older people, have pearls of wisdom to share, if only given a chance.  So let me say that I am glad Albom decided to share his teacher’s wisdom with us.  Such that those of us who are too “busy”, or would rather go to movies and parties with our friends rather than spending an afternoon with a teacher, can profit from the sage.

Here are a few of my favorite lines:

“Don’t let go too soon but don’t hang on too long.” (now, I pray the wisdom to know when is the timing…)

“After I’m dead, you talk, I listen.”

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

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Published in: on January 30, 2007 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Blessed are the Cheesemakers

by Sarah-Kate Lynch

From Publishers Weekly:
In the spirit of Chocolat, Lynch’s debut novel is a tender love story told through the medium of food, in this case cheese. In
County Cork, Ireland, Joseph Corrigan and Joseph Feehan, better known as Corrie and Fee, are the aging manufacturers of world-renowned Coolarney Blue. Their chief worry is a conspicuous lack of successors, and the narrative chronicles the solution to their quest in the unlikely but fated convergence of two characters. Abbey Corrigan, granddaughter of worrywart Corrie, who hasn’t seen her in 24 years, sits abandoned on the Pacific Island Ate’ate while her irrigation-obsessed and hypercritical husband gets biblical with the natives. Meanwhile, in
Manhattan, Kit Stephens is a burned-out stockbroker and despondent alcoholic, heartbroken by the recent departure of his wife and now fired from his job. In a series of fantastic coincidences, the two end up at the Coolarney factory, a meeting that will forever change their lives and the future of cheese.

I read the first page, and began to lament the lack of cheese in my refrigerator. I would so love to pour a glass of wine and slice some cheese to accompany my reading. I love cheese, ice cream and chocolate too much to become a vegan. “But thought of those poor cows!” said my vegan friend. I like veggie burger, soy milk and plenty other things, but I truly believe that among China’s five thousand years of history, someone must had experimented and put a cross next to the items like “ice cream”, “yogurt” and “cheese”, with a notation: must make with real milk. I reserve the right that I may change my mind several years down the road, but for now, I continue to allow my decadent body enjoy the sensation of some good cheese.

It doesn’t take long into the book to figure out what the ending must be. The colorful characters do a lovely job to keep the book interesting though. I do agree with one Amazon review that everybody in the book – from Southern Pacific Islander to NY hotshot broker to an Irish girl all sounds alike. But overlooking that, the author does a good job crafting each person and it is a very good debute for the author. And this should make one interesting movie too.

Now, if I could have finished this book with a nice wedge of cheese…

Published in: on January 15, 2007 at 4:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Fifth Mountain

by Paulo Coelho

Talk about unplanned themed reading! I was listening to Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord (I was curious how the Queen of Vampires protrays Jesus.) I happened to see a visiting friend reading The Alchemist, and decided to read this to pass on to him, and hopefully recruit a new BCer. So I picked up the book with no clue that it is based on a Biblical figure!

I am not too familiar with Elijah’s story in the bible, but I certainly find the portray of God rather weird in this book. I guess there is a very fine line of following his will or battling it to show yourself worthy ( “There are moments when God demands obedience. But there are moments in which He wishes to test our will and challengs us to understand His love.”) Well, please God, grant me the wisdom to distinguish the two.

I also so not understand very well the reasons for the High Priest to opt for war… to stop alphabet from spreading? Okay, I suppose he wants the privileges of being a minority of educated. Still it sounds as far-fetched as a comic book villian’s desire to conquer the world.

The opening is beautiful, and the scene of the bowman very powerful. The rest of the book seems somewhat muddled though. And I find it hard to believe that Elijah would claim to love someone yet dragged his feet to rescue her from a burning house. To reason that she must be dead by then and just thought of sitting down and do nothing is just beyond me. Surely, if the love is strong, you would rush there, dig your fingers raw, for the one millionth of a chance that she is still alive.

I am afraid I do not like this one as much as The Alchemist. The Alchemist is a beautiful, magical story, with a crystal clear message: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I don’t see a message as loud and clear in The Fifth Mountain though. I think this is what the author wants to say:

“[God] desired that each person takes into his hands the responsibility of his own life. He had given His children the greatest of all gifts: the capacity to choose and determine their acts.”

“A warrior knows that war is made of many battles; he goes on.”

“If you have a past that dissatisfies you, forget it now. Imagine a new story of your life, and believe in it. COncentrate only on those moments in which you achieve what you desired, and this strength will help you accomplish what you want.”

 

Published in: on January 15, 2007 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Many-Splendoured Thing

by Han Suyin

This is a book sent to me via Bookcrossing. (It’s a great site, a great site, a great site!!) I found it in our mailbox on our way out, so I read bits and pieces of it while my husband drove. The story was written in 1951, but we enjoyed the description of events and landmarks in Hong Kong (where I grew up) and Macau (where he grew up), some of which still stand after half a century, while some long gone. A few we didn’t know about until he verified with someone our senior. We chuckled at the writer’s complain about

Hong Kong‘s crowdedness (at 2 million people – 1/3 of what it is today), and marveled that the city had already made a reputation as shopping mecca half a century ago.Suyin, an Eurasian doctor, widowed with a girl, arrived in


Hong Kong and lived with a group of missionaries who were kicked out of
China during the political turmoil. At a social gathering, she met Mark Elliot, a British reporter. The two fell madly in love, despite the ostracism and bleak future.
Part of my enjoyment in reading this book was to learn more about my birthplace in an era before my time: a colony taxed with a sudden influx of Chinese refugees as civil wars broke out, with the communists advancing closer “just over the hills.” A place where the wealthy

Shanghai immigrants and shrewd British merchants transformed the little fishing port into a world renowned city, where “no one knows where Heaven with its stars ends and the earth with its lights begins.” It’s one thing to know what happened in history but quite another to learn what the thoughts and reactions of the real people in that era are.The author did a beautiful job describing the world around her, from the little details of a dinner on a boat, to the turbulent political climate of the world. Observant, poetic, soulful.

Nonetheless, it’s an interesting read. And I just want to copy down some favorite passages:


Hong Kong, look, no one knows where Heaven with its stars ends, and the earth with its lights begins.””[The squatters’ wooden shacks] Untidily stacked above each other, clinging to the crumbling hill slope, huddling beneath large threatening boulders, in danger of being washed away by the rains, in danger of being pulled down for health’s sake, in danger of fire every time a meal is cooked, many thousands of huts house many tens of thousands of people. The government of the colony cannot do more, for new thousands cross the border every week.”

“We did not look at each other, draw near, or touch. Only to be like this. Not to want anything. To sit, a little tired, a little muddled with weariness. Happy to know that in the world he was alive, and I was alive, on the same spot on ths earth, at the same moment, aware of each other… We sat, frigthened and grateful. Frightened because so easily we might have missed each other; grateful and asking no more than what we had already, because even what we had was too big for us to encompass.”

“I stopped to stare at the frontage of St. Paul’s Church, divested of any inside or any walls behind it, an abandoned stage prop, high on a hill, framing the evening sky in its doors and windows.”

“If he cannot [marry me], he will feel unfree, and I shall possess his imagination more than ever. If he can, I shall have to give him back to his world, otherwise he may leave me. Not bodily, but part of his mind. One woman is very much like another, after a while.”

“If you were Chinese, I could be your concubine. But we’d have to stay in Hongkong, because concubines are allowed only in your British colonies, Hongkong, Singapore, not in China now.”

“…the new, foolish amah, an irregular comet, darted at intervals from the outer spaces of the kitchen into the planetary system of our supper table to refill our rice bowls…”

“For your absence is even more potent than your presence to evoke you to me.”

Published in: on January 6, 2007 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Educating Esme

by Esmé Raji Codell

Reading this book makes me want to go back to school again! More specificly, to be in Mdm Esme’s class. She is a genuine, caring, spirited, and creative person. No, she’s a riot! We need more like her in our school system. Unfortunately, I can see how she get fed up with the system, unable to do what is the best for the children, and end up leaving.

Published in: on January 4, 2007 at 4:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Namma – A Tibetan Love Story

by Kate Karko

My first book to finish in 2007. : )

I can’t help comparing it to The White Masai and notice the difference of the two protoganists beyond the similarity of their exotic marriages. For starter, by page 3 of the prologue, the dating is over and the couple is married, whereas in TWM, a good portion of the story was spent on the chase.

Kate Karko is, by comparison, more observative and reflective, delving deeper into the nature of the people she spent time with – their social structure, the effect of modernization and sinonization, their spiritual belief and so forth, from her unique position as both an insider and outsider. The life she painted is quieter and deeper, the dramas less exciting, whereas in TWM the plot pulls you. This gets me wondering, at this risk of sounding stereotyping, whether their natures draw them to the guys, the cultures, they fall for.

This Tibetan Love Story is more about love for
Tibet, its land and its people, rather than for one Tibetan.

Tsedup, Kate’s husband, made an interesting comment. Kate’s friends from
England came for a visit, and at the end of the day, she commented that it was a good day. Tsedup said that the westerners always like to measure their days. His words got me thinking. Maybe because we measure the days, we are depressed by the sad ones, and become overwhelmed by the need to make each day a happy one? How do we not measure the days and still be immersed in life’s experience?

One common experience in both stories saddens me though: in both places, the husband, as a native tribeman, was discriminated against when he tried to enter a premise reserved for rich foreign visitors.

Published in: on January 3, 2007 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  

The Book of Proper Names

by Amelie Nothomb
I was so glad that joining bookcrossing gave me an opportunity to get acquainted with new authors. (I mean new to me, not novice.) Amelie Nothomb is one gem I recently discovered.

This book reminds me a lot of the movie Amelie. The French seems to have a magical wand that can put a whimsical spin on any tale. Moreover, Amelie in the movie has large, expressive eyes, the most notable feature of Plectrude. The orphan Plectrude was born under a most unfortunate circumstance, but was lovingly raised by her aunt. She aspired to be a ballerina, until the day a leg injury shattered her dream-like existence, and the broken shards left her heart bleeding.

At times a fairy tale, at times a heart-wrenching growing-up memoir, this little book is totally enjoyable. In fact, I went online to request more books of hers from the library.

Published in: on January 3, 2007 at 10:20 am  Leave a Comment