Category Archives: Catapult Books

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever Know Title: All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir
Author: Nicole Chung
Publisher: Catapult
ISBN: 978-1936787975
Genre: Memoir, Women
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

It is never easy to bare your soul and speak the truth. When a writer does that, or for that matter anyone who does that, you instantly connect. Not because you have faced the same, but because there is empathy that extends itself on a universal sphere – that of longing, loss, and love. Nicole Chung’s book is all of that and more.

Nicole was adopted by a white couple in Oregon when she was two months old. As a child, Chung’s adoptive parents always made it a point to let her know that she was adopted.  She rarely met any Asian people growing-up and often felt a sense of alienation – a sense of not belonging and made to feel that by children and adults. As she grew into an adult, this bothered her even more. More so, when she thinks of starting a family with her husband Dan, and sets out to find her birth parents. 

All You Can Ever Know is a memoir that cuts through the pretence. It is stark and doesn’t mince words. Of course the sense of family and its roots is very strong, but at no point does Chung’s writing make it seem like she needs validation. It is just an honest account told as though someone is writing a diary or confiding in an old friend. What she went through is extremely heartfelt and moves you to tears (at least did to me). There is also a lot of humour amidst family secrets, relationships, and the question of identity that Chung brings to the book. The complications of race are sensitively told, and ultimately it is all about love and what defines it in the long run. All You Can Ever Know is a must-read for all families – no matter what kind or shape.

 

Nine Island by Jane Alison

nine-island-by-jane-alison Title: Nine Island
Author: Jane Alison
Publisher: Catapult Books
ISBN: 978-1936787128
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 244
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Nine Island is the kind of book that will sink in way after you have read it. It makes most sense sometimes and no sense at all, the other times. Jane Alison’s writing is lucid at so many points and so vague at the other points. You get my drift, don’t you? It is a dream-like book. I was astounded when it began the way it did and there were also times I was bored out of my mind. Having said that, I reread a couple of passages of the book once I was done with it and let me tell you: They sparkled and spoke in a new voice to me.

What is the book about?

I don’t know how to tell you what the book is about – it is a lot of things actually – a love story, a rumination on Ovid and his tales, about solitude and the bonds we forge as we grow older and circumstances change and mostly, it is about taking second chances and giving yourself the luxury to make your mistakes and fall in love, all over again.

At the heart of the book is J (It is an autobiographical novel by the way), who lives alone past a certain age and yearns for love and companionship. She is trying to decide whether or not to withdraw from romantic love after returning from a reunion with an old flame, Sir Gold. The visit to Sir Gold results in nothing and thus the decision to be made. J lives in Miami and throughout the book ponders over love, Ovid (she is translating his magical stories) and about her ailing mother.

Now, what took me by the horns where this book is concerned is the force of Alison’s writing. The form of writing is free-flowing and that is what allows you to conveniently sink into it. The book is candid and doesn’t mince words about emotions and what J is going through. The first-person narrative works wonders for a book like this. All in all, Nine Island is a book that will make you reassess your relationship and speak with you in ways you didn’t imagine.