Fiona and Jane

This is a hot book.

But it’s not for everybody.

Amy told me a long story, encompassing infidelity, illness and cash. And when she was done, she asked me if I liked it, if I was bored. And I told her the only thing that matters is people and their stories.

But not everyone agrees with me. They think that facts rule. They read nonfiction, if they read at all. But fiction is the most honest writing there is. When you make it up you can make it more real. And “Fiona and Jane” feels real. At least the dilemmas, the situations, the feelings of the people involved. And if this appeals to you, I highly recommend the book, despite it having three and a half stars on Amazon.

If it has fewer than four I’m skeptical. A book is a huge dedication of time. But it was the review in the “New York Times,” before all those consumer reviews, that got me interested. Once again, it comes down to story.

So what we’ve got here is two women of Asian descent. One born in the U.S., another an immigrant. And they become best friends. And it’s the story of said friendship over the decades that the book is concerned with.

But it’s not some endless recital of situations, it’s not overladen with plot. It just rings the bell. Again and again and again.

Like when I started it. If you start a book and it doesn’t resonate it probably never will. I wish I could say otherwise, but this is what I’ve learned. However, you may not be in the mood, so if it’s something you think you want to read, give it another chance, but if it doesn’t hook you right away, abandon it, your odds of finishing it are low anyway. You want a book that calls to you, that you can’t wait to pick up, that you want to cancel your day for.

So the truth is…

Life is not linear. People are confused. You get into situations by accident. They change your life but you don’t realize it at the time.

You’re doing what you’ve been told to, been planning to do, for years, and then when you experience it you don’t like it, you may even hate it. In my generation you stayed with it, but youngsters, knowing that life is hard and there is no longer lifelong employment, are willing to stop, to try to figure out where they’re going. Which is kind of weird, because it’s much harder to make a living than it ever has been in my lifetime. We did not make most decisions based on money, but that’s always a factor if you’re under forty. Give up your career path and how are you going to pay the bills?

And most people’s lives are not out of a fantasy book. As a matter of fact, most people are anonymous, and if anybody cares about them it’s their friends and family. We’re sold this myth that if you do well in school, get into Harvard, your life will work out, you’re a world-beater. But not everybody who went to Boston ended up like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who both dropped out. Most are faceless. Some are broke. They’re all smart, but that does not mean you can make a living and impact society in a major way.

So one of the reasons people don’t like “Fiona and Jane” is because they believe it’s hard to follow. At first it appears to be a series of linked short stories, but really it’s the story of Fiona and Jane, individually and together, but not told in a linear fashion. You figure it out, but too many people don’t jump in with both feet, and art requires this, if you’re not all in it’s never going to work. Go on the creator’s ride. You have to finish it to fully understand it.

But not everybody’s journey is worth following.

And speaking of money, most people who are writers can’t sustain a living just on their novels, they’re oftentimes teachers, even though I believe writers are born, not taught. Sure, a few get rich, but most don’t.

And when I read a book I like I always do a bit of research on the author, to find out who they are, where they come from.

And I stumbled on to this article from the “L.A. Times”:

“Meet the Writers: Jean Chen Ho and the San Gabriel Valley Food Club”:

This sounded like something I wanted to be involved in. Successful conversation is rewarding and it will take you very far. At least that’s what Pete Ham said in the Badfinger song “Perfection.”

And conversation about people as opposed to things is the most rewarding of all.

So, you know if this is a book for you. And if it is, you should read it. It’s not perfection, either literally or the song, but very little is.

Badfinger “Perfection”:



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