'Leaving China," by James McMullan. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 111 pages. $19.95
This delightful little book may well be marketed for children, but don't let that throw you off.
The author draws and writes the story of his first 12 or so years, many of which were spent in China. His grandparents were missionaries (he was from Ireland, she from Bristol, England) and he tells about the hard times that grew far worse when the Japanese Army arrived during World War II.
They lived as best they could until the Japanese took over the whole country, and they took the last boat to Shanghai. His father stayed behind, joined the British Army, and was killed in a plane crash shortly before the war ended.
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This is an honest, lovingly drawn account of a sensitive boy's reaction to a strangely colorful childhood. He tells of the grinding poverty that forced poor Chinese families to abandon their girl babies and how his grandparents turned that into a victory. He describes life under the Japanese occupation, and how a timid boy grew into a successful artist.
This would be inspiring for young adults, but you'd enjoy it it too.
"All I Have in This World," by Michael Parker. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 311 pages. $24.95
The book begins with a series of chapters that carry different dates and seem to be a series of short stories. The author settles on two protagonists -- Marcus and Marie. But the book could have been called "Sky Blue Buick," because that's what it's about.
After describing their traumatic backgrounds, these two lost souls meet at a used-car dealership. They both are drawn to the above-mentioned Buick and impulsively buy it, splitting the cost. They have never seen each other before, but suddenly they are partners.
Marcus has survived a disastrous marriage and the collapse of his business (which is primarily involved in growing Venus flytraps), and the loss of his land and almost all of his money. His sister Alice was an equal partner in his failed venture, and he hasn't had the nerve to tell her.
Marie, then 17, had an intensely intimate relationship with a boy her age. When she decides to pursue her education, he kills himself.