Tag Archives: Vietnam

A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler

Word Lily review

A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler (Bethany House, October 1, 2011), 312 pages

Summary
Samantha Bravencourt mostly enjoys her quiet life near Washington, DC, working in her mom’s clothing boutique. When she gets an invitation to her friend’s wedding in North Carolina, she’s excited to see her college pals again. But that trip turns out differently than she expected. She’s reunited with Carson, who she had taught alongside with at the refugee camp in the Philippines, as well as with one of her former Amerasian students, who needs help.

Thoughts
A Wedding Invitation is very pink. I’m not talking about the cover here, either. The content is very girly, very pink. I wish I could describe this better. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I wasn’t quite ready for it. But speaking of the cover, why oh why can’t the girl on the cover match the description of the main character (olive skin, brown eyes)? I do like the flowery swirls, though, which are integrated inside the book, as well.

I loved the flashbacks to Sam’s time at the refugee center, as well as the touches of Asia (even if they seemed to center around food).

I was frustrated by the ignorance of fiber arts demonstrated in the book. Wisler uses a ball of yarn in a metaphor to indicate that someone is tightly wound, although yarn balls are supposed to be wound very loosely. And when a character crochets, she uses a “needle,” rather than the appropriate tool, a hook. But that’s not the main problem I had.

Overall, it was hard for me to connect with Sam. The characters didn’t communicate well with each other, and while I could usually guess what was going on inside her head, sometimes it felt like she was just, well … kind of crazy — acting on unmotivated whims. Honestly, I think Wisler was trying to adhere to the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule, but I’m not sure she quite succeeded. And other than Sam, most of the rest of the characters felt pretty flat.

Rating: 2.75 stars

Read an excerpt of A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler.

About the author
Alice J. Wisler is the author of four novels. She taught at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in the mid-1990s. She lives in Durham, North Carolina. Since the death of her son in 1997, she’s taught grief-writing courses.

Other reviews (more positive than mine!)
Books, Movies and Chinese Food
A Peek at My Bookshelf
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I received this book from the publisher as part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

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The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli (St. Martin’s Press, March 30, 2010), 400 pages

Summary
Helen Adams is pulled between escaping Vietnam as Saigon falls and staying, to photograph the government transition and hopefully cement her place in photojournalism history. Add to that the fact that Saigon feels like home to her — she’s lived there more than a decade.

Thoughts
Photojournalist! Woman! Vietnam! All of these things screamed at me to read this book. It started a little slow, and I started questioning my choice. That was a relatively short-lived concern, though.

I was worried about what the book cover calls “a drama of devotion and betrayal as she is torn between the love of two men.” I’m not typically appreciative of love triangle stories. This, too, was something I needn’t have worried about, happily. It was handled well, and I didn’t find it distasteful.

I loved the strong sense of place — I really felt like I could see the lush landscape, feel the humidity, the crowded streets.

I found The Lotus Eaters insightful, if mainly in a small area (journalism, drive, ambition). The way Helen is addicted to war, that appetite — all of the news business can be that way.

A few quotes that resonated (these are taken from an advance copy; page numbers and the text itself may have been changed for the final copy):

“The curse of curses was that he was good at war, loved the demands of the job. What was frightening was he had developed an appetite for it. Like a starving man staring at a table of food, refusing to eat on moral grounds; appetite would win, and his shrewd boss counted on that.”

—page 54, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

“The first picture, or the fifth, or the twenty-fifth still had an authority, but finally the repetition made the horror palpable. In the last few years, no matter how hard he tried, his pictures weren’t as powerful as before he had known this. Like an addict who had to keep upping the dose to maintain the same high, he found himself risking more and working harder for less return. He would never again be moved the way he was over that first picture of a dead WWII soldier. Was his own work perpetrating the same on those it came into contact with?”

—page 251, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

“Sometimes Charlotte entered a room she thought empty only to find Helen there, staring off into space, her face broken apart, her daughter the Picasso woman. Helen sat on the couch, legs curled up, tears rolling down her face, and all the mother could do was take her child in her arms, rock back and forth for hours, pretend her daughter was still a child and could be soothed, merely frightened of the dark.”

—page 276, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

“How could she understand? Even through all her hardship, she still saw the world through privilege. How could she know how it felt to be on the outside? Especially in one’s own country?”

—page 309, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

One other (very minor!) complaint: At the beginning I had a hard time figuring out when and where I was in the story, as we moved around, mostly in time. I think blame for this falls squarely on the fact that I had only short bits of time to devote to the book early on.

Overall: Although it started a bit slow, I really loved this book. A great read.

About the author
Tatjana Soli (@TatjanaSoli) was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives with her husband in Orange County, California, and teaches through the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. This is her debut novel.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli.

Other reviews
Caribou’s Mom
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Book Club Classics

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour.