Thursday, February 28, 2019

Books: On Empowered Women

There are two new books on empowered women from New York, The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani, and The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang.

The Storyteller's Secret
By Sejal Badani
Lake Union; hardcover, $24.95; eBook, $4.99

There is no way for Jaya, a New York journalist, to prepare for the heartbreak of her third miscarriage, followed by the slow unraveling of her marriage in its wake. 
Desperate to assuage her deep anguish, she decides to go to India to uncover answers to her family's past. Jaya becomes an eager student of the culture as she is intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds she experiences.
It is her grandmother's former servant and trusted confidant Ravi who reveals the resilience, struggles, secret love, and tragic fall of Jaya's pioneering grandmother during the British occupation.
It is with this romantic and heart-wrenching story about her courageous grandmother that Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that she never knew was possible.

The Impossible Girl
By Lydia Kang
Lake Union; paperback, $14.95; eBook, $3.99

This work of historical fiction from Lydia Kang, an author and internal medicine physician, is set in Manhattan in 1850.
Cora Lee, born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. 
As the only female resurrectionist in the five boroughs, she has carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists are ready to pay exorbitant sums for such specimens, dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.
Kang writes, "There were days when Cora Lee loathed he job, but this was not one of them. 
"It was cold and rainy, too cold for the middle of September. Cora stepped onto the green lawn of the Marble Cemetery near First Avenue. Tuckahoe marble obelisks and stones, newly popular with those who could afford to buy their plots in advance, dotted the green.
"A proper lady like Cora ought to be on Broadway, bedecked in finery beneath a silk umbrella, promenading before the so-called Marble Palace that housed Stewart's Department Store. But instead, she was here, at the place where God welcomed the young and the old, equally dead as they were. It was a neighborhood of the deceased, with no fewer than eight cemeteries within a four-street radius. But most were no longer accepting burials. Graves were being disinterred and moved to rural cemeteries, as the island was becoming simply too full of the living. Out to Randall's and Ward's Islands they went, and to Green-Wood on Long Island, and to the second Trinity Cemetery at the north end of the city. New York accepted the hungry, poor souls from any ship, but when they died, they didn't stay. Only the wealthy did - like lucky Mr. Hitchcock here.
"Or unlucky, perhaps.
"Cora bowed her head, face covered under a veil as she joined the mourners already gathered around the coffin freshly polished with bees-wax. She was a shadow amongst the mourners - an appropriate shadow, in case anyone looked closely: medium height, with a sturdy build and a narrow waist confined beneath a whalebone basque, and a face that was decidedly not Irish but otherwise difficult to place. Her eyes were dark; the braided knot of hair at her crown was the color of tea that had been steeped too long - though in truth, her real hair was shorn short beneath a rather expensive, matching colored wig. There was no chapel on the cemetery grounds in which to conduct the service, so instead, a thin priest, looking like he'd not yet recovered from the recent cholera epidemic, cleared his throat and began. The ground had yet to be turned, for the Hitchcock family owned a below-ground crypt, hidden beneath a few feet of soil and a heavy marble slab that covered the entrance."
Cora's specialty is not only profitable, it's a way for her to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She is the girl born with two hearts, a legend among grave robbers and anatomists, and is sought after as an endangered prize.
When a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she no longer can trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she has fallen for, because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die naturally.

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