EDWARDS — Keeping a secret from your friends is never easy; the truth usually comes at a price.
“I think all women have a friend who at some point betrayed them or deeply disappointed them. And at the same time all women have a friend who they dumped or betrayed or hurt in some way. That’s universal in women’s friendships,” said Lisa See, a New York Times best-selling author.
On Monday, See will connect with readers at The Bookworm of Edwards to talk about friendship and her latest novel, “China Dolls.”
This book follows a trio of Asian-American friends — Helen, Grace and Ruby — as they step into history during the 1930s and ’40s. As the women dance and sing at The Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco, the United States moves toward war with Japan. Ruby, one of the main characters, chooses to disguise her identity while the other women have not.
As a literary novelist, See is very interested in these hidden stories and family secrets.
“I think this interest started with my own family,” she said. “I come from a very large Chinese-American family, but I don’t look very Chinese with my red hair and freckles. As I did research about my family for my first book, ‘On Gold Mountain,’ I was struck by how much history — whether local, national or international — had affected my family. I wondered if my family members rose to the difficulties presented or failed? Did they do the right thing or did they betray or hurt someone out of a sense of survival?”
PASSION FOR PROSE
The author has a passion for researching improbable yet true historical events and then turning them into mesmerizing prose. Many readers are familiar with her novel of a friendship in 19th century China, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” which was adapted into a movie that found a worldwide audience.
“So much actual history was stuff I’d never learned in school or even heard about from my family. So much history — and the individual stories that are affected by that larger history — is lost, forgotten or deliberately covered up. I want to find that history, especially how it pertains to women, and look at it — to live in it for a while,” explained See.
The author hopes that the triangular story of women holding secrets in “China Dolls” comes as a series of surprises to her readers.
“I’ve been in a lot of triangles in my life,” See said. “I suppose all of us have — whether it’s a romantic triangle, the triangle of siblings, the triangle of friendship or a triangle in the workplace. Just yesterday I was doing a radio interview and the host came up with an interesting hypothesis — that each of us are born into a triangle of mother, father and baby. I’ve been thinking about that ever since — the push and pull between child and individual parents, the jealousy that can happen when one parent feels left out (I’m thinking of how new fathers often feel left out), and the ‘sides’ that people take in families. Our grounding about relationships in our lives comes from this very triangle.”
See lives and works in Los Angeles but still has a bit of wanderlust in her. She is visiting our community with family and friends.
“I’m very excited to get to Colorado,” See said. “I feel like I’m literally counting the minutes. I’ll be there for three weeks. My sons, daughter-in-law and a girlfriend will be coming for two weeks of that. My daughter-in-law’s family will be coming for a few days. My best friend and her husband will pop through twice as they wend their way through the mountains. My husband’s closest friend is coming with his family. It’s going to be great fun. I see lots of hikes, concerts, and picnics in my immediate future.”
Lisa See loves to connect with readers, too. She even shares her writing quirks — from writing the last sentence first to typing with only three fingers — with them.
Lisa Ekelman is a voracious reader, book group moderator and bookseller at The Bookworm of Edwards. Email comments about this story to cschnell@vail daily.com.