Monday, March 03, 2014

When you learn a friend has written a book, and it at last becomes available for reading, it makes one's heart skip a beat -- first out of joy for her accomplishment... and then the potential moral dilemma of "What if I don't like it?  What do I say?  How do I maintain my integrity and my friendship?" 
Well, a friend of mine has written a book -- which became available only a few weeks ago.  I naturally bought a copy immediately, and with eagerness, and yes, a bit of fear, the evening it arrived I (took a deep breath and) dug right in.  Thankfully, within moments my fears melted away -- even though, I'll admit here that I most definitely didn't like it. 
I loved it.  Truly.  Completely.  Regardless if it had been written by a longtime friend, or one I was just getting to know upon its pages.  With that in mind, it wasn't long after finishing it before my typing fingers made their way to to give it a hugely enthusiastic five star review -- one that was completely honest, and which I hoped might encourage other readers to give it a try.  With that in mind, I'm sharing the review here as well, because this book is just something far too good to keep to myself. 
It's hard to believe how much one can learn while having so much fun—an observation that could be applied to both readers and the author of this warm and engaging memoir. Inviting us to tag along as trusted friends, Sharon Winters guides her audience through the adjustments of living in a foreign land, one with both a complex language and distinct set of customs. Far from letting these challenges weigh her down, Sharon faces them with wit and charm, relying equally on her own resourceful nature and the kindness of strangers who quickly become family.

Detailing a two year stay in Shanghai, Sharon intersperses daily experiences with fascinating insights into the history and culture of the region, its people, and her own Buddhist faith. In the process, she makes plain the reasons Mandarin is considered one of the most difficult languages for Americans to learn, while proving that humor and humanity are universal bridge builders. Whether standing by her side as she bargains for paintings and pearls or seated with her at restaurants serving dishes sure to shock any Western diner, we delight in Sharon's victories and sigh with her in relief as she steers away from pitfalls. Most of all, we echo her wonder and joy as she unfolds to us a foreign city that indeed comes to feel very much like home.

I have to say I enjoyed this book so much that I approached the last few pages with trepidation, bracing myself for the inevitable sweet sorrow of being parted with a place and people I'd so enjoyed getting to know. But this, too, Sharon handled with her now accustomed spirit of friendship and comfort, allowing me to turn the final page and quietly utter the word zaijian, "I will see you again." Whether in a second volume I very much hope Sharon is considering, or through re-reading this one, that's a promise I'm sure to keep, and an acquaintance I already look forward to renewing.
Purchase your own copy of Cutted Chicken in Shanghai here

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