The Wangs vs the World

The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang; 2016; $26.00; 354 pages; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York, NY; 97805444734098; purchased at Multnomah County Library’s Title Wave Used Bookstore; 11/29/17-12/6/17

Why did I read this?  This is the January selection of the Corner Reading Society, the book group that I belong to.  When we meet the host (me, this time)  tries to make a menu from the food mentioned in the book, so as I read the book I noted all the food mentioned.  I am wondering how I am going to get In N Out food when the closest restaurant is five hours away.

George Wang is a immigrant from Taiwan who came to the United States with a connection to a urea supplier and a dream.  After building a cosmetics empire, it all comes crashing down around him due to some financial missteps.  He collects his second wife and a daughter still at home and begins to drive to across to reach his oldest daughter in upstate New York.  He drives from Los Angeles to Arizona to pick up his son at university and then heads to New Orleans, where he temporarily misplaces his son.  The family dynamics are all over the place during the drive.  It is an interesting story of interpersonal relationships and family history.



Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

  • Commonwealth by Ann Patchett; 2016; $27.99; 322 pages; Harper, New York, NY; 978-0-06-2491794; purchased from Multnomah County Library, Title Wave Used Bookstore; 8/13/17-8/18/17

Why did I read this?  Because it is the September selection of the Corner Reading Society.

An affair leads to two blended families on opposite coasts of the United States.  There is no animosity between the six kids, they just hate their parents, particularly the ones who had the affair.  There are several time jumps in the book from childhood to adulthood that show how the relationships have changed over the years.  The story of the family becomes a novel and changes many of the familial relationships. That part of the story remains me of what happened with Pat Conroy and his family after Pat wrote The Great  Santini.

Grade B

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman; 2014; $25.00; 337 pages; Atria Books, New York, NY; 978-1-4767-3801-7; purchased from Multnomah County Library Title Wave Used Bookstore, 3/3/17-3/6/17

Why did I read this?  The book club that I belong decided to read this as one of its selection for this year.

Ove is a man that knows what is right and lets everyone know when they are wrong.  He has lost his wife and in that loss he also lost his way.  A very diverse group of people and animals come into his life and help him find his way back.  I did not like the book when I started but at the end I cried.

Grade A

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; 2016; $26.95; 306 pages; Doubleday, New York, NY; 978-0-385-54236-4; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Hillsdale; 1/22/17-2/2/17

Why did I read this?  A co-worker recommended it (although she doesn’t remember doing so) and the Corner Reading Society decided to read it during the coming year.

Cora and Caesar decide to escape the brutality of the Georgia plantation on which they are slaves.  Caesar has found a contact that will put them on the underground railroad.  Even as they escape and make new lives for themselves they live in constant fear of slave hunters and other whites, who would do them harm in a myriad of ways.  Each chapter is from the point of view of the characters, encompassing some we don’t hear about or from until their chapter arrives.  It is a complex story that incorporates some fantistical elements such as how the train runs.  I think it is a story that would take several readings to really understand the story.

Grade B, I had difficulty following the story at a couple of points due to the structure of the novel.

What It Is Like To Go To War by Karl Malantes

What It Is Like To Go To War by  Karl Marlantes; 2011; $25.00; 256 pages; Atlantic Monthly Press; New York, NY; 978-0-8021-1992-6; purchased from Multnomah County Library’s Title Wave Used Bookstore; 9/9/16-9/17/16

Why did I ride this?   I first read this in December of last year and was so moved by it that I nominated it for the book group I am part of.  So I reread it with a slightly different eye so that I could lead the discussion.

I read Karls’ first book, Matterhorn, back in 2010 and so when a veteran and good writer writes something with a title like this I decided to read this.  This is a look at how we as a society can better prepare people to be warriors and then support them better when they return from warfare.  He looks at things in a physical, metaphysical, spiritual, psychological and practical sense.  This is a book that should be read by everyone.  It can be a difficult read as it has some frank discussions about what the author has experienced in combat.