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Review: The Night Tiger

The Night Tiger

The Night Tiger
By Yangsze Choo
Flatiron Books, 9781250175465, January 2020, 384pp.

The Short of It:

There is an awful lot going on in this story and honestly it was rather exhausting to read.

The Rest of It:

Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker. It’s an honest living but doesn’t pay enough to help pay her mother’s Mahjong debt so she takes a job working in a dance hall. These places have poor reputations so she spends much of her time hiding this job from her family and friends. One night, as she is dancing with a rather mysterious man, a glass vial falls out of his pocket. Thinking it might be valuable, Ji Lin quickly tucks it away, desperately hoping she isn’t accused of being a pickpocket.

Inside the vial is a shriveled up finger, preserved in salt. What does it mean? It is used for magic? Has it been cursed? Where did it come originally? This finger lures her down an adventurous path in search of its meaning.

When I said earlier that this book had a lot going on, man, I wasn’t kidding. Ji Lin has to deal with her mother’s constant inquiries about male suitors, her abusive step-father who takes his anger out on everyone,  including Ji Lin’s mother and her step-brother, Shin. Ji Lin would love to be a nurse and yet she spends her days fighting off men who want to do more than dance with her.

With all this going on, there is also a houseboy who sees death, people going missing, a rogue tiger is said to be the cause, and doctors going back and forth about missing body parts and people dropping dead from poisoning.

My main issue with this story is that it jumped all over the place. I didn’t get to spend time with any one character for long and overall the story was fantastical and not believable. The other issue I had is the one thing that WAS carried throughout the story, the attraction between Shin and Ji Lin, step-siblings. Not related by blood but still. I could not get past the cringe factor.

This is a book club pick and I know many readers who found this book quite entertaining. I, however, did not. It was just okay for me. If the story had focused on one main character and really delved into his or her story, I’d be more invested but with all the running around and fantastical elements (ghost tiger) I was over it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Knopf, 9780593318171, March 2021, 320pp.

The Short of It:

Love, loneliness and loyalty are front and center in this story about friendship.

The Rest of It:

Klara spends her days at the store, rotating positions with others. Some days she is in the shop window and able to watch the busy people rushing past the shop, interacting with others and living their lives. Other days, she is moved to the back of the store. On these days, her only view is that of others in the store and she can’t help but yearn for more hours in the window. Hours where she can feel the sun’s warmth and personally experience its rejuvenating effect.

Klara is an AF, an Artificial Friend. Although there are newer models with more advanced features than what she can offer, Klara is spotted by Josie, a young girl and instantly, Josie is sure that Klara is the AF for her, but the two do not meet at that moment. The mother needs more convincing and so Klara, although hopeful to find a new home, is moved to the back of the store again.

Months pass and Klara has all but given up hope, but then there she is, Josie. Klara’s heart is bursting at the sight of her but she can’t help but notice that Josie doesn’t look well. So as Klara is taken to Josie’s home, she quickly realizes that Josie is a special girl and that not only will she be Josie’s best friend, she will also be the one to notice her rapid decline in health and be the one to do something about it.

What a story. It’s a little weird and sad and somehow manages to hit on all the things we are feeling now. Disappointment, loneliness, isolation, hope. What does it mean to be a friend to someone? How can you love a person when you are in fact a machine? What happens when your purpose conflicts with your heart?

You might think that it will be difficult to feel much while reading this story about what is essentially a robot but think twice. Remember that episode of the Twilight Zone, Sing the Body Electric? Bradbury wrote the script and it later became a story with the same name. Anyway, I felt all the emotions while watching that episode and I felt the same way here. Ishiguro presents an AF who is almost too human and I loved her. I loved her gentle observations and her willingness to sacrifice herself when needed. Truthfully, I am a little sad now as I just turned the last page not long ago. This story will sit with me for a long while.

If you are wondering about the title, it’s all explained in the story and probably represents many things but I will keep my thoughts to myself so that you can consider the meaning yourself.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.