Monday, January 21, 2008

A Feather on the Breath of God

A Feather on the Breath of God was a short novel that was more character driven than plot based. It was basically a series of memories and impressions broken down into four parts. The first and shortest was about the narrator's father and what little she knew of him, the second was about her mother, the third section was about ballet and her teenage years, and the final part was about her affair with a Russian immigrant. I enjoyed the novel a lot and liked the way it was organized. In the part about her mother, for example, she tells her mother's life story and then has several small paragraphs (sometimes only sentences) that offer for more insights into her mother's life, character and their relationship, apparently just placed where they are as the thoughts and memories arise. She also reevaluates her relationships as she grows up, as for example in the ballet portion: as a teenager who wants to be a ballerina, she sees it as a woman's world, "a world where women not only outnumbered, but bested the men" (102). As an adult, looking back on her experience and watching ballet from the audience, she says "it is men who invented ballet - and the ballerina" (115).

The narrator's father was half-Chinese and half-Panamanian, and her mother was German, both first generation immigrants. The narrator at one point says that at points it seemed as if both her parents were living stereotypes of all the cliches about their backgrounds. Actually, some of her descriptions of her mother reminded me of my mom, so I also liked that aspect of the novel. For example, she talks about how she and her sisters never did chores around the house, and were told to "worry about [their] schoolwork" (60) which sounds similar to my mom. Apparently the narrator and I now have a "lack of domestic skills" in common (169). Another quote from the novel's mother is, "when you are young, you can get away with anything" (68). I remember one time when I went shopping with my mom, I was looking at skirts, most of which were slightly above knee-length, and my mom was getting frustrated because "you're only young once" and I should have been looking at mini-skirts.

The characters were well-developed. Even though the narrator does not reveal her whole life story, and leaves things untold and unsaid, the reader still gains an understanding of her. The other characters are as well developed as possible, but with them especially, there are chunks missing, showing that one person can never completely know another, and also portraying how distant or close her relationships were. If we, the readers, are left with questions, it is because the narrator has them, too, especially in regards to her father.

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