Carolyn Crocker

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Pachinko

Summary: 
Pachinko Min Jin Lee An epic saga of a family of Koreans under Japanese occupation, and then as aliens in Japan, spanning 1910 till 1989. Each generation tries to craft a strategy that will make the transition to full citizenship of some country somewhere, but then is left adrift in a kind of exile. A fascinating and heartbreaking portrait of day-to-day life and survival. “‘We can be deported. We have no motherland. Life is full of things he cannot control so he must adapt. My boy has to survive.’” p. 395

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The Widows of Malabar Hill

Summary: 
Perveen, a young Parsi woman in 1920’s Bombay is the city’s first female solicitor, and her legal practice will be the basis of the mystery series that this novel launches. Achieving that status as well as solving her first murder case form a dual narrative that is intriguing and thought-provoking.

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The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

Summary: 
A Battle of Britain comedy of manners with a mostly female cast, many of whom slot neatly into village types with a rather reassuring predictability, whips up a comforting nostalgic confection. From the village map on the end-papers to the Dickensian surnames to the night-time prowls sussing out the truth, this epistolary romp is much more than brain-candy.

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My Cat Yugoslavia

Summary: 
This surreal, astonishing novel, translated from the Finnish, has dual narrators: Kosovar Albanian Emine, married at 14 to a brutal abusive husband who describes her marriage and life as a refugee to a small Finnish town with her 5 children; and her younger son Bekim, gay, tormented, and deranged by the the migrant experience trying to find love and meaning. Snakes and cats are both characters and symbols. “There was war, and war was a row of tornadoes tearing up the ground one after the other, and war was a set of tidal waves swallowing up buildings, villages, towns, a tsunami of water kneading them into a paste before finally spitting them out.” p. 193

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Summary: 
When a mysterious illness leaves the author bedbound, a well-meaning friend brings her a snail in a pot of wild violets. Thus begins a remarkable relationship, healing caregiving, awakened curiosity, a wealth of scholarship, and the satisfying work of observation and reflection. An enlightening meditation. “Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail… the snail kept my spirit from evaporating. Between the two of us, we were a society all our own….” p. 132

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Do Not Say that We Have Nothing

Summary: 
A remarkable novel about recent Chinese history, the endurance of music and story, encapsulated in the life journeys of linked families. A composer, a classical pianist, and a poet whose work is making copies, and then adding to an epic _The Book of Records_ find variant ways to survive China's serial revolutions. A Canadian born Chinese mathematician, Marie, tries to piece it all together. Gorgeous writing.

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Before Everything

Summary: 
In the last month of Anna’s lengthy terminal illness her friends and family gather and distill the essence of shared life and loss in its beauty, messiness, triumphs and struggle. In brief vignettes ranging over a lifetime, a picture emerges of the tangential community a person creates -- and then carries forward into the future. Poetic and humorous, sad and uplifting.

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The Last Bus to Wisdom

Summary: 
This last novel by a beloved writer is a fitting farewell. The eleven year-old boy in terror of the orphanage and poor farm is dispatched from Montana to unknown relatives in Wisconsin. What follows is pure Western wish-fulfillment, after struggles and heartache, a mid-20th century road trip, adventures, mishaps, a bildungsroman packed with all sorts of characters.

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Quicksand

Summary: 
A bright, conflicted teenage girl is on trial, the surviving perp of a school shooting. Her thoughts, memories, confused hopes and regrets form a narrative that blazes through nearly 500 pages, questioning her guilt or innocence and indicting her Swedish society-- and ours. The translation is pitch perfect.

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Farthing

Summary: 
In alternating chapters a young aristocrat newly married to her Jewish truelove and a Scotland Yard inspector strive to solve a country house murder. The twist is: it happens in an alternative 1949 England that had appeased Hitler, shored up its own moneyed powerful elite and begun an all-too-plausible descent into fascism, while the Reich held Europe, and Charles Lindbergh was the sympatico president of a racist and mercenary USA. Chilling, but so good! Can't wait to get on with the rest of the Small Change trilogy!

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