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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bookgum: Follow Her Home

Hello my monsters!  I haven’t had anything resembling homework for about a million years, so I apologize in advance if I’m a bit rusty.  Now you know I love you all equally, but today we’re here to honor the amazing work of our very own Steph Cha for her book “Follow Her Home”.  First wow, what a masterful use of the Thesaurus!  (It’s probably now? Or the Thesaurus app?)  Steph has created a very visual work with her use of adjectives.  I could see it in my mind like a film as I read.  In fact I think it would make a powerful film. Though now that I have my own idea of what everything looks like I would no doubt be one of those annoying people who, after seeing the movie, complains very loudly that “the book was much better” and “Galifianakis is NOT who I would have picked for that role”.
Anyway, one of my favorite lines was “…middle aged married men don’t have ‘friendly’ relationships with attractive young girls.  Not if their wives can grow fingernails.”  Ha!  In fact I was about at this point in the book while in the spa waiting room when I was actually annoyed by the massage lady calling my name!  Now there’s a good book jacket quote. “Too good to put down for a massage” –Monster Kate
Juniper Song as our protagonist (how ‘bout me with the fancy word from English class) is one of those risk taking characters I found myself yelling at in my head “DON’T GO IN THERE” and “CALL THE POLICE” or just plain “NOOOOOOO”.  She’s great.  Nothing like a “superhero strong” female lead.  I enjoyed flipping between her two story lines, present and past, though my brain had to be torn away from each reluctantly.  Get over it brain!
So there you have it.  Great job Steph.  Keep me in the loop for the next book.
Hugs and Kisses everyone!
One of the oddest and most common suspensions of disbelief we make as readers of fiction is that the characters we follow struggle in a world where fiction—the stories, movies, and books that help us understand our shared experience—rarely exists. If writers do admit it, say, for example, Lev Grossman’s use of the Narnia-like Fillory in The Magicians, the work itself is an invention. There are good reasons for this; for one, an invented fiction is more malleable to the writer’s purposes. But some of this also has to do with the writer’s ego; he or she would rather produce a work that would someday be explicitly referenced than the one doing the referencing.

It becomes fresh and a demonstration of bravery, then, when Steph Cha allows the existence of Raymond Chandler’s detective fiction to weave throughout Follow Her Home. It becomes a template by which we as readers can judge her work, and one in which her own protagonist judges herself. Early on, Juniper Song, Cha’s narrator and a fan of Chandler, exits a party accompanying the woman who sets her on her dangerous path: “I had entered with Marlowe on my mind and left with a case and a femme fatale wearing four months’ rent in accessories.” In one deft sentence, Cha both echoes Chandler’s wry prose and demonstrates its believable impact on the way Song thinks.

The reader is not the only witness to this impact, though. Song constantly checks herself against Chandler’s fiction—the best way to tail a subject, how Marlowe would react at discovering a body in his trunk, how stoically he faces the prospect of his own death—and regularly believes she may not be up to the task. Song regularly remembers that Chandler’s novels for all their beautiful and mysterious characters stalking through rain-soaked L.A. streets is still a world of fiction. It becomes a neat trick then that Cha is able to convince us of the “realness” of her Los Angeles.

This book becomes more than homage to Chandler. Yes, she preserves some of the formula—the femme fatale, the sharp-edged diction, the chapter cliffhangers with our hero fading into unconsciousness, secrets kept by confidantes—but the novel explores issues that Chandler would never have been able to touch. He could never shine this kind of light on the Asian-immigrant experience or dig at what is so creepy and racist about some white men’s obsession with Asian girls. For all his wit and bravado, Marlowe’s inner turmoil was often at a low simmer, and with minimal emotional connection to the cases he ran down.

Not so for Song. Cha moves efficiently back and forth in time peeling back the layers of Song’s past to believably reveal why she pursues this case with such doggedness instead of just turning it over to the police. And, as the reader learns the horrifying details in her past, the stakes of Song’s current predicament ratchet up. Song isn’t just fighting to stay alive, she’s fighting to find something to live for. I’m not sure that question ever occurred to her hard-boiled hero. But in this novel, the answer to that mystery is more satisfying than the whodunit.
Hello there, Monsters! It's been awhile since I have contributed to our lovely site, and I am very excited to be discussing Monster Steph Cha's Follow Her Home. Although this is not "I'd Hit That," I still have some things to say about this book's alluring features. Let's get to it, shall we? Our hero Juniper Song loves a good mystery especially any of the Marlowe tales written by Raymond Chandler. Although I have not read any of the Marlowe books, I could still appreciate the neo-noir quality. There was dark and dodgy feel to the narrative, but there were still parts that made me chuckle to myself too. That being said, Steph Cha has a knack for fancy words and figurative language. I would highly recommend that anyone preparing for the ACT or SAT use this book as a supplemental study guide. The style was enjoyable, but for me the real treat was the flashback dealing with Song's sister Iris. I am sucker for a good flashback--WE HAVE TO GO BACK!--or flash forward for that matter. Anywho, Song feels as though she has failed Iris, and the invitation to investigate Lucas' dad is her chance for redemption. And redeemed she was! From the moment Song begins her investigation to the conclusion of the terrifying weekend, it was like riding the Tower of Terror on a loop. Once my stomach settled back into place, there would be another surprise just waiting to finish me off. These twists and turns kept me turning the page. Another refreshing thing is that the story has a level of complexity due to the gender, ethnicity, and sexual abuse issues that are weaved into plot. Despite Song getting into so many dangerous situations, she kept her cool and ended up kicking some butt. I mean, c'mon. Using a stiletto to nail a dude in the junk and cause a car accident? That is bad ass, you guys. I applaud our leading lady! Steph Cha, you should be proud.


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