Book Reviews by Cos Barnes
In “George’s Grand Tour” by Caroline Vermalle, I could’ve been George. My son recently gave me an iPad which I did not ask for, but he said my grandchildren will text where they will not telephone. Kids love telephones, I thought, but that is evidently no longer true.
Widowed and lonely and suffering from many old-age distresses at 83, the protagonist, George, talks his 70-year-old friend, Charles, into accompanying him on a car trip, the route being the 2009 Tour de France.
They plan to see all the scenery the French landscape provides. Before they leave, George gets a call from London from his 23-year-old granddaughter, whose mother (George’s daughter) is traveling elsewhere and asked her to check in with grandfather periodically. They have not seen each other in 10 years, but a new friendship develops as they communicate electronically.
The story brings out how communications are as important to the younger generation as they are to the older. George even throws in a little pig Latin, which I do occasionally to see if I can remember fourth grade antics. With undertones of sadness, this is a sweet tale as two generations renew their affection for each other.
There are many dysfunctional aspects to the Lee family in Celeste Ng’s debut novel, “Everything I Never Told You.” There’s daughter, Lydia, who is so unpopular with school associates that she spends her nights pretending she is talking on the phone; a Chinese-American father, James, who has never felt that he belongs; and the mother, Marilyn, who gave up studying to be a doctor when she married but determined that her daughter Lydia will fulfill her dreams. Marilyn also has deep-seated conflicts with her own mother.
At one point, Lydia leaves home and does “her thing.” While she is away, James permits his other children, Nath and Hannah, to watch television all day and eat whatever they wish. Lydia later dies, either by murder or suicide.
In this novel, Ng explores everything: alienation, race, gender, family identity and rejection of others who are different.
Barnes has been writing for OutreachNC since the first publication in 2010 and currently participates in three book clubs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.