Briefly Reviewed...

       
We receive more wonderful books than we can possibly review. Here is a selection of titles, briefly described, that represent the wide range of recently-published memoirs written by strong women who have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. Recommended!

Peking to Paris: Life and Love on a Short Drive around Half the World, by Dina Bennett: This book encompasses a set time period in the author's life; 35 days in an vintage auto, on a road rally covering 7,901 miles from Peking to Paris.

The willingness for Bennett to step out of her comfort zone is prodigious. Prone to car sickness, with no experience as a rally navigator, Bennett works with her husband, Bernard, for over two years to prepare for this rally. Called the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2007 Route, the 125 cars/teams are travelling a route not travelled in 100 years. Together they buy a car (a 1940 LaSalle 52 Coupe) and spend 18 months fixing it to, hopefully, take on the rigors of the 7,900 mile trip.

Bennett takes the reader along on her journey, talking about obnoxious bureaucrats in each county, the food, the housing and their fellow rally-mates. The frequent breakdowns, the driving through desert sands and unpaved roads, the remarkable weather, camaraderie and the 24/7 togetherness of this couple, married over 20 years at the time of the race, make for a great story, and a quick read.

 
The Secret of the Nightingale Palace, by Dana Sachs: In Dana Sachs' novel, family ties and disruptions twist and turn, creating a devastatingly beautiful tapestry of two generations learning to get along.

Anna is 35. Recovering from the death of her husband, she takes on, reluctantly, the task of escorting her 85 year old grandmother from New York in San Francisco by car—taking a Rolls Royce no less!

Grandmother Goldie is irascible and opinionated, determined to teach Anna an appreciation of her family. The story's strengths are in its slow revelations of Anna's experiences with her husband and his death, and Goldie's 1940's past in San Francisco. Goldie's best friend is a beautiful Japanese girl whose own family is fraught with mystery and sacrifice.

As the cross-country drive ensues, each woman has to come to terms with their relationship, which has always been one of dissidence. Goldie's opinion of Anna's husband bring Anna to tears, and yet, Anna finds peace in the loss of a beloved spouse, while learning that Goldie's drastically different upbringing and youth made her who she has become.

An unexpected hospital stay for Goldie brings someone new into Anna's life, and the women resume their drive having reached some enlightenment about what they mean to one another. Anna in stasis after a devastating loss, and Goldie approaching the end of her life with courage manage to bond, both as women and as relatives.

There is a charming twist to the ending, and as we leave Anna and Goldie in San Francisco, we can cheer for Anna's future happiness, and how Goldie plans to spend her twilight years.