Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What I read (November 2012)

I've been slogging my way through The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. Although she is one of my favorite authors, I'm not finding it very easy going. I took a break to read my book group selection (The Treasure Map of Boys, which will be featured in next month's recap), but am now back into The Lacuna, determined to finish it!

Beyond The Lacuna, I read two great memoirs and two novels in November. For full reviews of these books, click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden.

First, the novels:

The Book of Dahlia, by Elisa Albert
Dahlia Finger, a selfish, shallow, foul-mouthed, and stoner Jewish American princess who was conceived on a kibbutz, has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at the young age of 29. Dahlia is not particularly likable, but as her childhood memories come forth, it's clear why she got to be the way she is. There's no question where the story is headed, and if you're looking for an upbeat, happy story, this isn't it. But it does make you think about your own life and where it's headed. Are you making the most of each hour you have?

Everyone Is Beautiful, by Katherine Center A sweet, easy read about a Texan woman with three young boys who is transplanted to Boston because of her husband's job. When a stranger at the park supposes her to be pregnant, she decides she must make a change. She begins going to the gym every day and she also takes up photography. As expected, soon her marriage is in jeopardy. I appreciated the fact that this was a story about a stay-at-home mom with a brain and a mission to bring meaning to her life. She has a true friend who supports her and accepts her for all her faults. Her husband adores her even though he's not good at expressing it. She comes to peace with her body and appreciates the beauty in women of all shapes and features around her.  

And the two memoirs, both of which I really enjoyed:  

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) Avoid this book if:
  • You are easily offended by foul language.
  • You are an ardent animal lover.
  • You are a literalist. (Did it bother you that Dan Brown took liberties with history in The DaVinci Code?)
  • You take things or life too seriously.
 Jenny Lawson has written a hilarious memoir about what it's like to grow up in the wilds of Texas, with a father who is a taxidermist. She became accustomed to such bizarre events as running into the interior of a deer carcass, acquiring pet raccoons, having a just-killed squirrel turned into a puppet named Stanley, and having her dad throw a baby bobcat at her prospective husband on his first visit. Full of all sorts of animal adventures, the memoir recounts her mismatched relationship with her husband; thoughts about her vagina, three miscarriages, an anxiety disorder, and a tendency to say outrageous things at dinner parties; and battles with vultures and rattlesnakes, kitchen catastrophes, post-it note fights, and shopping revenge. I really enjoyed this book, but it's not for everyone! Check out her blog if you're curious (or read my fuller review, linked above). If it makes you laugh, you'll like the book.

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
Oh my...what a wonderful book! I've been recommending this to lots of people.
In the beginning, Strayed was not a particularly likable character. After her beloved mother dies suddenly of cancer (described in a completely heart-wrenching, daringly vulnerable chapter), she went off the rails. Married way too soon at 19, she began having irrational flings and shooting heroin. Her siblings and stepfather, to whom she previously felt close, scattered and grieved in their own ways. In another heart-wrenching chapter, Strayed and her brother had to shoot their mother's neglected horse because she was too old and sick and they couldn't afford to hire a vet. She was a complete mess.

But something about the Pacific Crest Trail called to her. At the age of 22, wracked by grief, Strayed set out on a 1,100-mile hike all by herself...woefully unprepared for what she would face. Beginning in the Mojave Desert, she hiked up through California and Oregon, concluding at the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon-Washington border. She hiked through blazing heat, record snow levels (when she couldn't find the trail), and drenching rain...and faced down severe dehydration, treacherous conditions, bears, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and a predatory hunter.

Strayed lives in Portland now and has become a local celebrity writer. Masterfully and honestly told, Wild is a story I will remember for a long time. Check out my full review to see a book trailer with photos and more information.

After The Lacuna, I plan on some lighter reading while I'm recovering from my surgery in December...and will be watching a lot of movies and TV we'll see what kind of reading I'll get done.

1 comment:

  1. All great reviews. I have heard about "Wild" -- but not much other than people are captivated by it. Your's is the first review that included just enough back story to make me want to invest time and money into it.