Book Reviews: April 2018:
Happy May Day! I’m not sure what happened to April, but here we are. I didn’t read as many books as I planned. Sometimes that happens. One thing about April—I set out to read more memoirs. I love memoir and for whatever reason, I haven’t read many lately. In addition to three memoirs, I read a best-selling work of fiction (Oprah stamped it with her seal) and a classic literary ecological work.
Question: Do you typically agree or disagree with Oprah’s book recommendations? Just curious. (I sure wouldn’t turn down an Oprah book club stamp on my book…)
by: Nina Willner
Forty Autumns is the true story of a family separated during the Cold War. Author Nina Willner recounts her mother’s defection from East Germany while the remainder of her family—parents and younger siblings—continued to live behind the Iron Curtain. With a heavy dose of history, this story truly fascinated me. We don’t often get such a personal glimpse of life in West Germany. The author provided a well-researched and documented account.
This book made me: think about how easily people can be brainwashed, and how easily people fail to see what’s right in front of them.
My favorite line: “We are strong because our souls are free.”
An American Marriage
by: Tayari Jones
An American Marriage is the fictional story of newlyweds Celestial and Roy, an upwardly mobile Atlanta couple. When Roy is accused and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Celestial’s commitment and duty is tested. Oprah chose this as one of her bookclub reads vaulting it to the top of the best seller list. The story is partially told via letters to and from prison. The point of view flipped among various characters, a style I find disruptive to the mood of the story. Overall, the author put together powerful story and highlighted a timely topic. While I didn’t altogether understand some of the decisions made by the main characters (especially Celestial), I felt sympathy toward them. The situation the characters found themselves in seemed all too real.
This book made me: think that when life is interrupted, really interrupted, nothing is ever the same.
My Favorite Line: “I feel like I need and need and need and it’s wearing a hole in the fabric.”
Flat Broke with Two Goats
by: Jennifer McGaha
While this book held my attention, there were a handful of things that stuck in my craw. Maybe the banker in me was a tad judgy about an accountant who (oops!) doesn’t pay income taxes for a string of years and (surprise!) ends up with a huge tax debt to the IRS. Maybe the farm girl in me fretted over innocent chickens and goats said people took on to raise with little forethought and no training. This memoir is about moving past mistakes and not being defined by them. I’m all for that. I believe in taking responsibility, too. I did enjoy the humor and homesteading aspects of this memoir. And I loved the goats.
This book made me: want to make my own yogurt.
My favorite line: “If I had taken care of our children like you took care of our finances, they would all be dead by now.”
by: Frank Conroy
Somewhere I recently read that Stop-Time is one of America’s greatest modern-day memoirs. As a fan of memoir, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it yet. Now I have. And I loved it. Frank Conroy writes with a sparse calmness that drew me in and held me there. Published in 1967, the chapters meander in short-story fashion each guiding me toward the next. If you are a fan of memoir and coming-of-age shenanigans, add this one to your list. If you prefer flash and intriguing plot, you might not enjoy Stop-Time the way I did.
This book made me: want to buy a yo-yo.
My favorite lines: “I could not resist the clarity of the world in books, the incredibly satisfying way in which life became weighty and accessible. Books were reality. I hadn’t made up my own mind about my own life, a vague, dreamy affair, amorphous and dimly perceived, without beginning or end.”
A Sand County Almanac
and Sketches Here and There
by: Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold’s Wikipedia page describes him as an American author, philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, environmentalist, and professor at University of Wisconsin. To date, A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949, has sold over 2 million copies. For anyone who loves nature and the environment, pick up a copy of this classic and savor it in bits and pieces. Although written in the style and spirit of the time, his beautiful prose reads like a stroll through the woodland garden at sunrise. The book is arranged in three distinct parts with reflections of each month in Wisconsin, sketches and essays, and environmental issues. The first section is my favorite.
This book made me: grateful for my agrarian roots and early life lessons.
My favorite lines: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
I hope you had a productive April filled with lots of great words!
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
Paul McCartney, Blackbird