Find it at your library!

The gift that was our trip to see Hamilton keeps on giving. Recently the Library Hotel called to say they loved the blog post I wrote detailing our stay, and wouldn’t you know it, they still had a copy of that ARC I mentioned wanting to steal from the front desk, and if I’d confirm my address, they’d put it in the mail and send it to me with their thanks.

See, kids? The lesson here is don’t steal things. Write publicly about your desire to steal them, and people will give them to you for free!

(In case it wasn’t clear in my original post, I want to note that my glowing remarks about the Library Hotel were 100% unsponsored and unsolicited. They’d never heard of me before (what, you thought this blog was big potatoes?) and did not ask me to write anything about them. I’m just a book nerd who stayed in their hotel, absolutely adored it, and wanted to share it with (my teeny tiny little corner of) the world. In writing the post, I had no expectation that anyone at the Library Hotel would ever read it, much less volunteer to give me anything I super badly wanted. End of disclaimer.)

Anyway, I was jazzed to get my hands on this ARC, because Southeast Asian history is an area I’d like to learn more about. I feel like I know so little about the culture, the struggles, and *ahem* U.S. involvement in that part of the world, even when it comes to the past fifty years or so. There’s no excuse, man! Especially right now, when U.S. relations with just about every other country in the world are so fraught with tension and uncertainty.

Ratner is a really lovely writer, and she tells a sometimes brutal and heartrending story with a featherlight touch. Obviously it’s hard to sell people on a book by saying, “Here! Read this book about a genocide!” but Ratner truly does spin straw (or worse) into gold here. It’s an ugly story at times, but her telling of it is consistently beautiful.

I also found main character Teera’s reflections on feeling Cambodian in America and American in Cambodia to be incredibly timely and honest, again particularly in light of the current hostility towards immigrants. I imagine it would be very difficult to feel welcome here with the vitriol that has been spewing from so many mouths.

With warmest regards to the Library Hotel for the advance copy. On sale April 11!

Find it at your library!

Some descriptions might lead you to believe this book is about a marriage between spies, but really it's about a lifelong friendship shared by two very different women, Frances and Rosalie. The facts that Frances eventually becomes a spy, enters into a marriage arranged by the US government, and lives in the Galapagos Islands for months in primitive conditions are, surprisingly enough, not the most important plot points.

And it works out that Frances and Rosalie's friendship is the axis on which the novel revolves, because the dynamic between them is complicated and constantly changing. Frances is sheltered, naïve, dying to get out on her own and away from her controlling family. Rosalie is more worldly than she should be, with secrets that take Frances years to uncover. As they age, their bond remains steely despite the secrets they keep from each other.

Less interesting, sadly, is the relationship between Frances and her husband, Ainslie. They reminded me of Alma and Ambrose from Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things, their fundamental incompatibility an insurmountable hurdle to intimacy. I can't put my finger on why, exactly, but I don't really care to read any more books featuring sexually frustrated perimenopausal women trying to make it with men who aren't into them that way. Oh right, because romance. I need it in my life, man.

With regards to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale today, May 24!