Monday, October 15, 2012

Literary Monday - Two novels of identity

I was on vacation last week and did not have my laptop with me, so I didn't post anything.  I spent the week in Utah with some friends from As Good as Gold, volunteering at Best Friends Animal Society's sanctuary near Kanab.  I walked dogs, cleaned dog kennels and bunny enclosures, worked with one of the caretakers at the cemetery on the premises, and generally helped with whatever the animal caregivers needed.  In the evenings, there was plenty of time to sit around with a bottle of wine and talk, or relax with a book.  Two of the books that I read are worth noting.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty - When she agrees to act as chaperone for the daughter of an acquaintance (the daughter will later become famous as silent film actress Louise Brooks), wealthy, matronly, lonely Cora Carlisle has her own agenda for wanting to leave her home in Wichita and spend a few weeks in New York City.  While Louise attends classes at the Denishawn School of Dancing, Cora sets out to find out what she can about the mother who abandoned her as a toddler.  In the process, she comes to realize that her life is far from over, and that the prejudices and social codes of her economic class are often as stiff and uncomfortable as the corset that Cora wears relentlessly for the first half of the book.  Cora's life story (past, present, and future) turns out to be very different from what the reader expects when we first meet Cora.  A novel of changing identities and beliefs, as well as the transformative power of love and acceptance.

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani - Known for her Big Stone Gap and Valentine series, Trigiani explores her own identity and family history as she writes the story of her grandparents' lives:  how they found each other, lost each other, and unexpectedly found each other again in a new country.  Hardship and injustice are no match for true love and perseverence, even when the past catches up with you.

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