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Listening to the Silence

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The Owl Killers
Karen Maitland
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See She loves me. She loves me not. She loves me.

When they were eight years old Snow Flower and Lily were bound to each other as laotong, old sames. This is a bond deeper and stronger than any a man or woman could share, even marriage. The communicated all their life's joys and their sorrows in the private language of women, nu-shu, on the folds of a fan and swore that never would an untruth or a harsh word pass between them. This proved to be an impossible promise to keep, for both girls, as their life's circumstances veered off in completely different directions. It is only at the end of her life, after having outlived almost everyone, even two of her sons, that Lily is able to speak freely and tell the story of the words written on the secret fan and of her life's deepest regrets and shame.

What a beautiful reflection on love and friendship this book turned out to be. Rarely does a book live up to the hype surrounding it. Snow Flower not only lives up to the hype, it surpasses it. Lisa See told a flawless story, sickening me with the descriptions of the torturous process of foot binding, making me cry weep when Lily and Snow Flower feel sorrow, and drawing the reader into the private world of the women's chamber where everything was dictated by tradition. This is definitely a book written for women and though it takes place in pre-Mao China it could tell the story of all women if you strip away the cultural details - the cattiness that naturally erupts when too many women are forced to live in close quarters, the expectations and fears a mother has for her daughter, the rarity of a deep-abiding love between two girls as they mature into women, and the inevitable misunderstandings that can sever a previously close bond in an instant. I loved every word of this book, even those that made me cry, and read it in one-sitting, unable to put it down or go to sleep until I knew the whole story. I can only join the chorus of voices proclaiming it's place as one of the most loved stories of the past decade.