Scandalous lives, affairs and encounters

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A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman

It’s a small world. And it’s getting smaller.

Case in point: you strike up a conversation with a stranger at the airport and find that you both worked in the same building 20 years ago. Or you overhear a dear friend discussing someone you just met that morning — and it turns out she’s distantly related to your new acquaintance. Or you suddenly discover that you really are “six degrees separated” from the Queen of England and Brad Pitt.

Our paths cross with so many people every day, it’s almost inevitable that we’re all connected. But in the new novel, “A Disobedient Girl” by Ru Freeman, two women with different lives are linked in the most heartbreaking way.

Latha loved the finer things in life. Though she couldn’t use the Lux soap in front of Madam, the wonderful smell made her smile, perhaps in part because the soap was stolen. Stolen, like the best things Latha owned. Sure, she wore nice saris, but they were always hand-me-downs. Because she was a servant, Latha was expected not to want the finer things in life.

She didn’t remember a time before she came to the Vithanage home. They told her that she had no mother, and that was why she became Thara’s servant. Latha and Thara were friends, but Vithanage Madam never let Latha forget her place.

Long ago, Biso tried to drown herself and her three children in the ocean, but when the waves broke over her body, she lost her courage, walked out of the water and returned home to another beating.

Biso loved her children. The oldest, Loku Putha, was big-boned like his father, but way too impressionable. The middle child, Loku Duwa, knew her mother’s favor lay elsewhere. And Chooti Duwa, the baby, was the child whose father was not Biso’s husband. The favored daughter’s father was stabbed and killed by the man Biso was forced to marry. Latha always wanted children, but who would marry a servant? Her first child, conceived in revenge, was taken from her. Her second, conceived by an American, was ripped from her. But her third child would allow her to make a family.

Every now and then, I get a book that makes me want to do nothing but go to the sofa to read. This is one of those kinds of books. Beautifully written (although a little wordy at times), “A Disobedient Girl” pulls you into another world completely. You know that no good will come to the defiant Latha, and though you truly want her to have those fine things, you know it will come at a price. You’ll want to wring haughty Thara’s little neck. Watching Biso unravel is unsettling, and — while you may have the “secret” figured out by the middle of this book — it hurts to read the way it happens.

Judging by this, Freeman’s first book, she’s an author you’re going to want to keep an eye on. For a debut novel, “A Disobedient Girl” ain’t no small thing.

Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet by Darwin Porter

You just can’t help it. Much as you try, you can’t help picking up one of those tabloids while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. This star divorced that one after he had an affair with this one over there because she split up another star’s marriage and… It’s just way too much fun to stargaze. Read the new book, “Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet,” by Darwin Porter, and you’ll get an eyeful. Just remember — you’ve been warned.

One of the most powerful memories Merv Griffin ever had was when his parents were forced out of their home, their belongings confiscated, when young Merv was just five years old. Even at that tender age, he vowed to his mother that he would build her a mansion someday.

Long before he was a teenager, Porter says, Merv knew he was attracted to boys. That attraction, though his father tried early on to quash it, strengthened during Merv’s adolescence. Though his father didn’t want him to be a performer, the talented Merv loved “putting on shows” for neighbors in his aunt’s house. That same aunt taught the boy to play piano and in short order, he was a better pianist than she.

Because his uncle was a tennis pro who owned a club and gave lessons to Hollywood’s elite, young Merv was able to meet and spend time with stars such as Errol Flynn, Johnny Weissmuller and others. Though Porter says much of that time was spent ogling men in the locker room, Merv became close friends with people — both men and women — who quickly furthered his budding career. Soon, he was singing for and with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Merv manipulated his career at every turn by pouncing on every opportunity he found. Porter indicates that by the time Merv was called for an audition with Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, he was well-known and had an established fan base. And he had quite a reputation in Hollywood – for more than just his singing.

Reading like a “Naked Who’s Who of Hollywood,” “Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet” is, on one hand, a delightful guilty pleasure. On the other hand, it’s a bit overwhelming, because names are tossed out like fastballs and chronology seems to be merely a suggestion. Porter says in his acknowledgements that he spoke to “hundreds of people associated with the entertainment industry,” and not just about Merv.

His staggering research is nothing if not thorough. Astute readers, however, will notice a lot of direct quotes and entire conversations that purportedly took place decades ago, which makes for an engaging read, but eventually feels tabloid-fakey. While it’s true that this book fits with others in the tell-all genre, I would’ve been happier with, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

Still, if you’re a hopeless tab junkie and you can’t get enough scandal, pick up this book. For you, “Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet” will have you hung up and hooked.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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