Friday, October 23, 2009


"Resilience" by Elizabeth Edwards left me in a melancholy mood all night. She enjoyed a life full of family and love and fulfilling work and then suffered the death of her son, cancer, and her husband's infidelity. She writes in great detail about the loss of her son, the grief process and pain she always carries. She has dealt with it in the many years of aftermath, but she doesn't say much about dealing with her husband's affair. Clearly they are still going through that challenge.

Anyway, I felt very close to her as she spoke honestly about these trials. I think this book would be incredibly valuable to anyone looking for a map - she tells the Bible verses, poems, stories and activities that kept her moving. I had questioned her decision to make her story public - how did her little ones feel seeing mom bash dad on the TV? - during the big publicity blitz. But now I see that she was providing a service in her book - keeping her son's memory alive, showing others how to cope with unspeakable grief. It was a tremendously touching book.

"Perfect Family" by Pam Lewis was a literary suspense novel. I thought it was too heavy on the literary - lots of dull dialogue that went nowhere. WIth suspense novels, you want the mystery to proceed apace! That's all you care about, not character development so much.

"Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Color" by Joyce Sidman is a really neat poem about the seasons with gorgeous, gorgeous art by Pamela Zagarenski. It's a children's book - my child is much too long to enjoy it but I certainly did.

"Bibliotherapy" was very disappointing - blah. I liked the idea of pairing books to moods - I totally think of certain books as cozy winter reads or books to enjoy when you're dreaming about a weekend in Paris. This book was basically a summary of self-help books of the '90s. Not interesting at all. Those books die for a reason.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

a reliable wife

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick is a perfect read for a spooky wintery day... It's about a cold that burns, about wrapped-up people seething with sexual desire, about poisoned love and tender cruelty. It has the bitterly cold atmosphere of a Gothic melodrama - I loved the line about "the knots of births and deaths making a insane lace." Couldn't put it down.

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve is my first book by her - I absolutely loved it. Prep school friends reunite for a wedding, each has a secret regret or longing, relationships tangle and spark. Each character was totally fascinating to me and I I loved the ending.

"French Milk" is a charming account of a young woman's month in Paris. She's lonely and eats good food and looks at paintings and nothing really happens, but she is in Paris and feeling despondent in Paris is always in style.

Monday, October 19, 2009

real life and liars

"Real Life and Liars" by Kristina Riggle is a family story set in a quaint lakeside town. The mother has cancer and rejects medical treatment, the tightly-wound angry daughter drinks too much, the impulsive daughter is pregnant and hastily married to an older black man, the son is a struggling musician. It was a quick, enjoyable read.

"Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech is a Newbury-Award-winning teen book. I love it b/c it shows the sophistication of young adults- discussion poetry and relationships and metaphor. It reminded me a lot of Lois Lowry's books - the kids are depicted as nimble and astute about the world, not clueless and neutered.

I also watched "One True Thing" last night - what a great movie. The image that sticks in my mind is Renee Zellweger furiously stirring a big mixing bowl, unable to vent her anger at her father - and men in general for leaving the emotional work to women while they go off and selfishly pursue their own desires (and have affairs). NOTE TO JOHN EDWARDS: Don't cheat on your wife as she dies of cancer!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

gaudy night

"Gaudy Night" by Dorothy L. Sayes is a mystery set at Oxford in the 1930s. I read it in 2000, when I was studying at Oxford. It's fun to read, a mix of suspense and intellectual philosophy and romance between feminist Harriet and Lord Peter, a witty Cary Grant-esque detective who keeps proposing to Harriet. They have really good chemistry.

I liked reading Agatha Christie mysteries when I was a teenager, so this took me back to that atmosphere.

Also this week I attended a reading by Michael Chabon. I actually haven't read any of his books but I will rectify this asap. I got "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" since it's set in Alaska. He read from "Manhood for Amateurs" and the precision of his writing impressed me. On a shallow note, I will also say that he is extremely good-looking.

Next up: Real Life and Liars by Kristina Riggle.

Monday, October 12, 2009

one true thing

One True Thing by Anna Quindlen was a reread... I first read it in high school and loved it. Reading now as a mother who is more aware of the cruelty of time, I found it shattering. It was so disturbing I had to put it down as I read about the daughter caring for the cancer-stricken mother while the father had affairs. Awful.

Isabel's Bed by Eleanor Lipman was a fantastic comic antidote, a great paean to potential and life's wonders and possibilities. Again, I read it in high school and loved it much more now. The narrator is a struggling writer who writes thinly-veiled accounts of her life. After catching her boyfriend flirting with a new mom whose baby is named Nicholas, she writes a story about a man flirting with a new mom whose baby is named Nicole. I found that hilarious.

Summer People by Brian Groh didn't do much for me. I liked the concept of a young man caretaking for a elderly rich woman but I didn't connect with the characters at all.

Currently reading Gaudy Night!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

House & Home

As a fervent lover of Portland who will be moving, "House and Home" by Kathleen McCleary was right up my alley. She writes about the love of a house, a particular place where you lived the days of your life, with great emotion and understanding. The plot was so well-done that I couldn't guess the ending and usually the winner in the love triangle is quite obvious.

I also finally saw the Cold Mountain movie, which was brutal! I hate violence. I couldn't even watch the scene with the baby in danger. But the movie was really good and true to the book. I think it lacked some of the humor of the novel, it felt pretty heavy.

I read "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading" by Maureen Corrigan from "Fresh Air." Appropriate, right? She tells the story of her life baed on the books she's read. I liked her insights about female endurance tales - positing "Jane Eyre" as the female counterpoint to the challenges of "Into Thin Air." I did not relate to her discussion of Catholic young adult literature and its values. But I did enjoy the talk about "Gaudy Night." I read that book a while ago and she provoked me to pick it up again.

I'm kind of a sucker for books about books. Anne Fadiman's "Ex Libris" is a favorite. I trust the recommendations of authors about books very highly. Reading about reading is a great pleasure.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

happens every day

"Happens Every Day" by Isabelle Gillies is a memoir about her marriage ending - I actually got this on my iPod and listened instead of read the story. She describes in loving detail the domestic life that was ripped away from her - her big brick house in the college town, taking her sweet toddlers for walks around the campus, the sense of community and belonging. Her husband left her for another woman and it happened so quickly, it's riveting. I kept trying to pinpoint the moment when it was over. I kept trying to find out why. It's obviously one person's side of the story so an incomplete picture is a given. I really felt for her. It's a good choice to listen to since she is an actress and reads her own life story well.

"Bad Mother" by Aylet Waldman is an examination of modern motherhood and the traps of feeling guilty about everything. I identified with her at some parts and value her honesty. I'm a new mother and already spent great mental energy stressing over questions like - if I pick up my baby when he cries, am I making him overly dependent? if I ignore his cries, am I being selfish and neglectful? Every tiny choice you make is a step towards certain doom and ruin in someone's eyes. It's vital to learn to trust yourself and relax but it's really hard.

I liked her comparison of how she mothered her kids different based on birth order - overly doting on the first, more casual with the last ones. The writing style was annoying with footnotes sprinkled throughout. I know she's an attorney, but footnotes are too cutesey in a book of essays.

What's next - reading "Girl with Pearl Earring," maybe rereading "Jane Eyre," rereading some Elinor Lipman. Also I want to watch the Cold Mountain movie! I haven't had a chance yet.