The Secret of the Nightingale Palace
by Dana Sachs
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Genre: Women's Fiction
Length: 368 Pages
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35-year-old Anna has recently lost her husband to leukemia. Some time has passed since his death, and it’s time for Anna to get back on her feet, but she is struggling to move on. Out of the blue, Anna’s estranged grandmother, Goldie, telephones and orders her to come to New York at once. Goldie Rosenthal is overly opinionated, obsessed with good manners, and flat-out nasty sometimes, but she’s family. Before we know it, Anna is sitting at JoJo on the Upper East Side and agreeing to drive Goldie across the country in a Rolls-Royce to deliver a collection of valuable Japanese art to a long-lost friend in San Francisco.
Alternating between Goldie’s experience in the 1940s and Anna’s perspective now, Dana Sachs has created an unforgettable duo whose stories teach us about the enduring power of love and family.
Just how well do we really know the members in our family and our background? That's one of the questions facing the Anna, one of the primary characters in Dana Sach's The Secret of the Nightingale Palace. Likable characters, good dialogue and plenty of emotional angst, make this an unforgettable tale. Balancing a mixture of history and the perspective of the present and the past, this tale captured my attention and never let go.
Dealing with her husband's recent death, Anna Rosenthal is surprised when she receives a call from her grandmother Goldie. Estranged for over five years, Anna doesn't know if she's up to dealing with Goldie, but because she's family, she knows she doesn't really have much of a choice. Only once in New York, she finds herself agreeing to travel cross country to San Francisco. It seems her grandmother has a collection of valuable Japanese art which needs to be returned to a long lost friend.
Goldie Rosenthal has spent her life protecting her family's secrets. A widow herself, Goldie is deeply private, independent and somewhat mysterious. She also knows she's the only one in the family who might be able to help Anna cope with her loss and get on with her life. Will sharing the secrets of her past, help Goldie give Anna a way to handle the future?
The scenes between Anna and Goldie are well written, though occasionally emotionally difficult to get through. While a generation, and lifestyles apart, both women are independent, opinionated and stubborn. Especially Goldie, who's set in her ways. While Goldie grew up poor and made herself into the wealthy woman she is today, Anna has spent her life trying to atone for her middle class life. It's only as Anna learns of her grandmother's past, and the people that helped shape it, that Anna realizes life always marches on. I really enjoyed how Ms. Sachs brings both women together by sharing the past.
As their journey to San Francisco ends, will what Goldie shares shape the woman Anna needs to become? You'll have to read The Secret of the Nightingale Palace to find out. I know I enjoyed it and I think you will too.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Crowns
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Dana Sachs was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and spent her childhood there. Throughout those years, she thought Memphis was the most boring city in the world, but she changed her mind when she left for college and realized that not everyone got to grow up along the Mississippi River, tramping through Overton Park, eating peach cobbler at the Buntyn Café, and listening to B.B. King, Alex Chilton, and the Panther Burns. Obviously, it takes traveling far away to realize the things you most love about home. Since leaving Memphis, Dana has learned to love (and happily reside in) other complex and captivating cities, including San Francisco, Hanoi, Budapest, and Wilmington, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Todd Berliner, and their two sons.
Dana began her writing career as a journalist, publishing articles, essays, and reviews in, among other publications,National Geographic, Mother Jones, Travel and Leisure Family, and The Boston Globe. Her first book, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam(2000) was chosen as an American Booksellers Association Book Sense Pick (the precursor of the Indiebound Next List).
Her first novel, If You Lived Here (2007) was also a Book Sense Pick and was chosen for inclusion in Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Program. Her nonfiction narrative The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam(2010) resulted from a Fulbright Foundation Fellowship in Vietnam. She is the co-author, with Nguyen Nguyet Cam and Bui Hoai Mai, of Two Cakes Fit for a King: Folktales from Vietnam (2003) and co-translator of numerous Vietnamese short stories into English. With her sister, filmmaker Lynne Sachs, she made the documentary about postwar Vietnam, “Which Way is East.”