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During our May book club, we will discuss Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. A novel of art, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space. A story of time travel and metaphysics—a performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful—that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.

Staff Recommendation

The Forest Brims Over is a novel by Maru Ayase, translated from Japanese by Haydn Trowell. Before having even read the description of this book, its cover, a vibrantly hued explosion of leaves, flowers, and owls was immediately entrancing; I was drawn to it the moment I saw it. After taking in the spellbinding image, I hungrily read the back and learned that the book was about a woman who turns into a forest following the publication of her husband’s breakout novel, in which her life, personal struggles, and intimate details about her sexuality were exposed. Rui is made into something more, and something less than human by his success. My initial reaction to the cover, combined with the subject matter, made it very evident to me that I needed to read this book.

I found this book to be infuriating as I read it, watching the female characters come to realizations that the men in their lives were granted so much more freedom than they were in nearly every setting, from the workplace to the home. Yet at the same time, every interaction and inner female thought displayed in this book felt like a gentle nudge, like a key turning in a lock, allowing me to make such realizations about my own life in my own ways. This novel illuminated a multitude of questions within me, some that had been perhaps floating around in my mind for a while, not fully formed, stuck on the tip of my tongue. Why is it that young women are taught to value the opinions of the men in their lives about who they are more than their own opinions about themselves? Why is it that women are from birth expected to be demure and agreeable, yet at the same time ridiculed for not expressing their own opinions and true thoughts? Why are women told that we need to maintain an innocence and sense of modesty in order to be respected, but also have to be okay with constantly being over sexualized?

Amidst the anger I felt while reading this book, and the fear that the suffocating dichotomies imposed upon women in so many cultures will never end, I also found it incredibly beautiful that Rui’s intensity of feeling literally rebirthed her into a forest. The image of this is so powerful, the idea that a woman’s inner world, her inner emotions and feelings could cause such an extraordinary transformation. Rui’s forest devours the home she shares with her husband, rendering him unable to ignore her or how she feels any longer, which serves as a stunning symbol for how women all over the world are making it known that the systems, traditions and values upheld in their societies are oppressive and need to be altered. I’m imagining the world erupting in forests, burgeoning green, brimming with women free to reclaim their stolen selves.

-Jade

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