Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A solid debut, which I read in one sitting (it's a relatively short novel). Set in present-day India, a young woman named Jivan makes a careless comment on Facebook and becomes the scapegoat for a train bombing, which becomes so politicized that two acquaintances—a former PE teacher and an aspiring actor/friend—must betray Jivan in order to preserve their own dreams. What overwhelmed me throughout is the precariousness of any individual’s life. One tiny wrong move, for any of these three characters, and their lives will be forever changed and hopes destroyed. Corruption is so pervasive that rewards for hard work and decency simply don't exist anywhere. I might have appreciated some small sign of fair play; it would have added nuance. But as it stands, the book is devastating and relentless. Spoiler alert: this is not *Slumdog Millionaire.*

Tuesday, February 2, 2021


Just finished this book about a women’s diving cooperative on the small Korean island of Jeju in mid-20th century. To be honest, I didn’t find the characters particularly compelling, and the “strength of women’s friendships” that some readers feel this book celebrates seemed to me diminished by pettiness and failures of forgiveness, but the way women wielded the earning power and other historical aspects were fascinating. This small island was overrun repeatedly, by the Japanese before WWII, North Koreans, and Americans (during the Korean War). Personal  and collective loyalties shift, and these women just keep diving into the sea for octopus, oysters, and abalone to keep their families alive. Definitely worth a read.