Saturday, July 30, 2011

Good read:

I've just finished Jael McHenry's The Kitchen Daughter. It was a good read; parts of it were a great read. What stops me from declaring it a "great" read overall, though, is that I almost didn't finish it. At the 37-page point, I was ready to close the book permanently, park it on a shelf, and say not every one is a winner. But I invoked my daughter's rule that you have to give a book 50 pages and kept going. I'm glad I did. It was worth the read.

The opening was slow for me, a little disjointed, a little too much repetition from the protagonist, Ginny. I understand, now, afterward, the need for the repetition. I recognized then, too, though to a lesser degree, that it served a purpose of laying foundation, of informing the character. It was enough of an irritation, though, a distraction, that it stops me from proclaiming it GREAT.

That said, there's something really remarkable about the book. I'm a believer in the idea that we react to any given book based on a lot of things, most notably, what's going on in our lives at that moment, our emotional state. These things, along with our own experiences and baggage, make us more or less receptive to a story, a style of writing, a subject matter. I was moved by this story; somewhere along the way I bought in and found myself inside Ginny's world, invested. She has Asperger's, though she's never been officially labeled as such. I felt Ginny's frustration, her confusion, her desire to fight through all of it; I cheered alongside her with each victory, with each new learning and understanding. What holds it all together for me is the touch of magic, the idea, the possibility... she's able to summon up the ghosts of her relatives by working from their handwritten recipes. There are also a couple of twists weaved in that take the story deeper and kept me reading.

Put this on your summer to-read list.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

Yep, the dog days of summer are here and I love, LOVE them! I love wearing shorts and walking around barefoot. Love the job of puzzling out how to keep all the flowers and trees and budding vegetables watered. Love sitting on the patio and reading a book, the sun warm on my skin.

It occurs to me that if I lived in a clime where it was warm and sunny year round (or perhaps the majority of the time), I probably wouldn't salivate as I do when summer rolls around. It'd be the same old stuff. But, of course, that's not how it is here and so I look forward to the lazy days of summer, wishing they'd last forever.

Last week it was unbelievable hot here - I'm not complaining, mind you, just stating a fact. We smashed the old record (97, I think) on the way to a new one: 104! But the best news is that the heat index was a whopping 119 degrees. Holy cow, right? It was like how I imagine living in the desert is. It was crazy and fun and gloriously hot. My hubby and I headed down to the lake (Lake Michigan), hoping for a little lake breeze.

Hope your dog days of summer are fabulous, too.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Great read:

I have just finished Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge and all I can say is wow. WOW. This is a novel in stories, which is all the rage right now, and it was so captivating, so spellbinding that I'm nearly beside myself. Olive is a character with so many flaws that she feels... well, human. The normal imperfections that we all have, the gripes that we feel but perhaps don't voice. She's handled with such honesty, such tenderness and heartfelt emotion that I came to believe that I knew her, really knew her, that she was a part of my family.

I so thoroughly enjoyed each story, beginning with the opening one, that I was genuinely surprised with each subsequent story as it became my new favorite.

This is the first time I've read anything by Elizabeth Strout and I felt like I was in the hands of an expert, a master. She took her time with each story, with each character - and for this I was thrilled because everyone always says to get to the story, cut all the excess, which I always take to mean no lollygagging. But that's how I felt in each of these stories: lollygagging. In a good way, a way that let me see the surroundings, see the nuances of the characters, feel their emotions, each lollygagging moment building upon the previous moment, each lazy-like detail filling in the edges so that, at the end, a full-bodied masterpiece is realized and I feel as though I know and understand these characters, especially Olive Kitteridge, to such a degree that I'm amazed by it all and definitely, definitely better off, fuller, for having spent time in her world.

This kind of experience is such a treat.

I highly recommend it.