Monthly Archives: October 2013

Read: Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire

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Lured in by Wicked and entranced with The confessions of an ugly stepsister, my hopes were high for Mirror mirror but sadly Gregory Maguire Lost me, as his other so-titled novel had before. The idea of taking a fairy tale and reversing the storyline and character roles can be spectacular or lose all charm. The dull and drab Mirror mirror left me searching for something that I couldn’t find in it.

Stories and fairy tales, fiction and non-fiction all hinge on characters and plot. A purpose, a mission, a lesson, actions or even lack-there-of must take place and spur, or stagnate, a story to make it captivating in some manner. Tales of grisly human nature can become literature with a literary writing style…yet interesting historical figures can fall flat when dropped into a tepid hull of a classic story. The Maguire’s note about Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia at the end of the novel gives me slight pause, since he tips his hand in revealing the kernel of reality in addition to the refashioning of the Snow White fairy tale, yet considering everything that fact alone doesn’t redeem this story for me. I hate to give a bad review but sometimes writers need to be called out on a poor attempt, especially when they’ve written great works prior.

Oddly enough, Maguire’s earliest works were most enjoyable so what is it about Mirror mirror that he wrote later? Mainly, the first 50 pages go no where and don’t convey much–main characters aren’t explored, the traditional storyline isn’t there nor is it challenged, and the writing style itself doesn’t even compel me to read on. From what I remember of Wicked, the story took off running and the plot began its crescendo very early on; plus, who doesn’t want to hear the true story of Oz as never before? When all that happens in the first 50 pages is finding a mirror in the mud, I doubt that the rest of the novel will become interesting. So much potential for the story is missed out on, and along with the non-existant plot at this point, I am forced to put this book down for good. Nothing speaks to me, which is truly a disservice to a reader.

If you’ve read and liked Mirror mirror, leave a comment below explaining why. I’d love to know what I’m missing, when all that I see here is 7 years bad luck.

Recommended?: Not really. Perhaps for the die-hard Gregory Maguire fans in order to read his complete works. My aunt read it for that reason and it wasn’t her favorite yet not her least favorite of his either. More an adult novel than young adult, from what I read.

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Read: Waiting by Ha Jin

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Waiting by Ha Jin is a simple love story, yet love itself is never as simple as it seems. The novel is as a complex as it appears straight-forward and a wonderful tale set in 1980s China.

Lin Kong agreed to an arranged marriage that his parents set up when he was young but the woman that showed up on the wedding day was ragged and wrinkled, not the beauty in the photo that he’d been promised. Feeling obligated and being a good son, he married her anyway. But rural life on a farm is not the life that Lin wants so he leaves to become an army doctor and soon his meets another woman.

Of course, that alone wouldn’t make for a compelling story but the opening lines sure does:

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife. Together they had appeared at the courthouse in Wujia Town many times, but she has always changed her mind at the last moment when the judge asked is she would accept a divorce.

As a good wife, Shuyu cared for Lin’s dying parents, works hard on the farm earning little, and raising their daughter yet Lin feels no love for Shuyu and so pursues divorce in vain with hope. He doesn’t want to remain married to a woman he doesn’t desire and believes he has no obligation to. His heart belongs to a nurse named Manna but he can only court her as a friend since the army doesn’t along any relationships besides married and engaged couples. Until the divorce is complete, Lin and Manna cannot be together.

There is a rule in the army that after 18 years, a divorce can be granted to one partner in the marriage without the say of the other. However, that means Manna has to wait for Lin since it is obvious to her that Shuyu will never give in. Waiting is difficult and her pursuits of other relationships fail, likely due to her desire to be with Lin no matter what.

18 years pass, the divorce is granted, and life and love is more complicated than ever. The future is not what any of them expected. And the waiting does not end.

The story is heart-breaking and heart-warming, a joy to read. It considers what love is but more importantly, how it affects the people in and around it. These are things that we all should consider… and then tell the ones we love that we love them.

 

Recommended?:  Yes, mostly to adult readers since there are several sex scenes including one that’s brutal. It’s a readable, enjoyable book that will make you consider what love means, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or health.

 

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