Year of the Smoke Girl

Year of the Smoke Girl

by Olivia J. Boler
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Year of the Smoke Girl 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm glad that year of the Smoke Girl has two parts - otherwise I would have been up all night reading! The book was impossible to put down so I read it in two sittings. Olivia Boler brings the people and places in the novel to life. The reader is taken from New England to Amsterdam to Paris and finally San Fransisco on an early life crisis with the engaging Smoke Girl.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Our rites of passage are many. For the fiction writer, it is the debut novel. Some debuts pass by uneventfully, while others attract our attention. Olivia Boler's debut novel not only attracts our attention. It is up in lights. What puts any debut up in lights? When a new artist upstages all the others with a work of exceptional insight, artistry, and mastery. This work is Year of the Smoke Girl. Olivia Boler, a native of San Francisco, takes us on a journey with Khatia Quigley, a young woman who is given a haunting charge by her dying mother. 'Wu Sham,' Khatia's mother says on her deathbed, meaning 'foggy hills' or 'misty hills.' It isn't until later that Khatia learns that the foggy city of San Francisco holds the answer to her true identity. In the mean time, Khatia begins a journey to Europe with her college roommate, turned lover. Boler not only delves into the mysteries and complexity of sexuality with her main character, she illustrates the frightening extremes of racial prejudice. Khatia's mother is Chinese, and her father is Caucasian. In Year of the Smoke Girl, bi-racial Khatia, one spitfire, funny young woman, not only 'comes of age,' she comes of 'sexuality' and comes of 'race.' It takes a writer of Olivia Boler's exceptional skill to bring all these elements together, especially without fanfare but as a natural by-product of the story itself. And perhaps this is Boler's greatest gift: she is a storyteller, a storyteller who is able to imbue not only insight but also humor into her story. For Khatia, life is too serious to take seriously. The narrative voice, like the main character, is fully humorous, fully ironic, at times biting, but always witty. At one point, Khatia says, 'Making love to a woman was like shaving without soap... Sexy. Dangerous. Mildly painful.' Who wouldn't describe their 'first' similarly? But who would be able to say it with such repartee? Porter, Khatia's brother, describes Khatia this way: '...We'll, she's never really been with us to begin with. When she's being quiet, she gets a look on her face, it's like a cross between a nun and a serial killer.' Boler's insight comes through especially in her main character's encounter with an old man she meets on a park bench in Amsterdam. The old man has a 'large, cartilaginous nose and lots of spidery gray hair growing out of the edges of his spotted, red ears.' The old man speaks English and offers Khatia a compliment. This was not a good way to start a conversation for her. She did not like compliments. 'Never believe them for a minute,' she says to herself. Then the old man asks her about her goals. That's when Khatia really panics. What are goals? 'Points scored? ...I guess my goal is to find a goal,' she finally says. The old man is delighted. 'That is excellent!' he responds, 'Yes, that is exactly what you must do. Take a step each day at a time, and enjoy each step as you take it, no matter how hard it may seem.... [Life] only gets complicated to make it interesting.' Khatia takes the old man's words to heart as she pursues her journey through Europe, back to America, and eventually to San Francisco where the mystery of 'Wu Sham' is finally solved. Olivia Boler's main character effectively and skillfully covers a wide range of rites of passage in her debut novel. But it is this debut novel itself that we as the grateful reader get to celebrate. Boler is a strong, new voice in the literary world. Year of the Smoke Girl is vibrant and vivid story-telling. It is up in lights.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book raises some very important issues regarding identity and culture in our society. Year of the Smoke Girl would fit perfectly into curriculums in high school or college which might be examining such classics as Invisible Man and The Crucible. This book is a classic in its own right as it also examines the concept of the lengths individuals will go in order to be accepted within society. The main character, Khatia, is cleverly crafted in the talented hands of Olivia Boler. Boler is able to convey her aloofness from those around her, and as a result, she remains distant from the reader until it becomes so obvious that the wounds from her father's internal and external wars permeated deeply even into the next generation. The setting shifts with the shifting emotions of Khatia. Boler captured the charming confusion of Amsterdam and the romance of Paris perfectly. In fact, Paris is so romantic, the main character even considers moving into a relationship that's obviously wrong for her. But in one of the most capitivating and charming cities in the world, San Francisco, the climax and resolution come together in a satisfying twist which could only be created by an author as gifted as Boler.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. You ever read a story and then go about your day, and then wham, something from it just hits you? Well, that's what happened when I was reading this.