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review 2018-06-19 18:47
Friendly advice
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar - Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed is a collection of the letters and responses that were printed in the advice column, "Dear Sugar", from The Rumpus. The topics range from love and marriage, cheating, identity (sexual and otherwise), parenting, relationships with parents/children, grief, and abuse. Strayed does not pull her punches and she doesn't apologize for it either. She somewhat softens the blows of her blunt advice and observations with endearments like 'sweet pea' and 'honey bun' but instead of sounding condescending it feels like it could be delivered by a trusted confidant. Lest you think that she gives this advice from a rather standoffish perspective it is often conveyed through her own personal experiences and struggles. When the column was originally written her identity was unknown which makes the intimacy and the rawness of the letter writers and her response to them such a unique and wonderful thing. If you've ever experienced turmoil in any area of your life (and you'd have to because that's just a natural part of things) then reading such real, honest advice delivered with love and respect is a welcome breath of fresh air. I laughed, cried, and goggled with incredulity while reading this book. It's an excellent palate cleanser if you're in a book reading rut or a great way to kick start your summer reading adventure. ;-) 10/10

 

The inner flap contains some great quotes. [Source: Cook, Wine, & Thinker!]

 

What's Up Next: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Condoleezza Rice: A memoir of my extraordinary, ordinary family and me by Condoleezza Rice

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-06-14 02:56
Lincoln in the Bardo (Audio)
Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders

I think I need to read this book. I know the audiobook has won award after award (as has the book), but it never really grabbed me. I couldn't keep my brain attached to the story. I got annoyed with it and kept rewinding, so I'm going to get an actual book copy of this from the library and try again. I love George Saunders. Honestly, the subject matter didn't interest me a ton from the blurb, so I waited. I'm a fan of his shorter work, though I quite liked Pastoralia (and don't really understand why that's not called a novel, but I digress.) 

 

So---this is a preliminary rating. Some books just don't work for me in audio. I've figured out that my brain likes to create its own sounds and sights etc, so I usually don't do audio on fiction unless it's fairly easy-breezy. Oddly I learn better from listening, but I don't like to read fiction this way as much (however, I adore audio for essays, nonfiction and many memoirs.) 

 

Honestly, I'm not all that pumped, now that I know the story, to read the book, but I feel like I owe George Saunders a decent chance. And I can't believe everyone on earth likes this book except me, so I'll read it eventually and redo this little review.

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review 2018-06-13 11:01
Miles to Go
Miles to Go - Richard Paul Evans

This book continues the story from The Walk.  

 

Alan Christoffersen is on a journey, a soul searching walk across the US.  He started in Seattle after he lost everything.  His wife died, his partner stole his business, and his cars and home were repossessed.  He was thinking about giving up and ending it all but something stopped him.  Instead, he grabbed a map and figured out the farthest he could walk on land and set his sites on Key West Florida.  At the end of The Walk he was attacked by a gang and serious injured.  He ended up staying with a woman who he had helped on his walk.  He fixed her tire and she gave him her card.  He forgot all about it but when he was taken to the hospital that number was the only contact info on him.  She came to help and offered him a place to stay while he healed.  While he was there he realized he wasn't there for her to help him.  She needed help herself.  

 

After Alan was healed enough to return to his walk he saw young woman being attacked by a group of men.  He helped her and she began to walk with him.  After she finally talked about her situation his heart really went out to her.  She was an abused child put in the foster system.  She was nearly 18 and since she knew she was going to be on her own soon anyway, she ran away and was living on the streets.  She was a great girl and didn't deserve her situation.  Alan really wanted to help her.  

 

____________________________________

 

This is a great soul-searching story for both the character and the reader.  I found several little gems to add to my quote book.  I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series and continuing the journey along with Alan.  

 

 

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quote 2018-06-13 10:44
For there are moments in all our lives, great and small, that we must trudge alone our forlorn roads into infinite wilderness, to endure our midnight hours of pain and sorrow--- the Gethsemane moments, when we are on our knees or backs, crying out to a universe that seems to have abandoned us. These are the greatest of moments, where we show our souls. They are our "finest hours." That these moments are given to us is neither accidental not cruel. Without great mountains we cannot reach great heights. And we were born to reach great heights.
Miles to Go - Richard Paul Evans

Page 317 (the last page)

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review 2018-06-06 08:18
There There by Tommy Orange - Urban Indians and lost connections
There There - Tommy Orange

If this is what Tommy Orange writes for his debut, we have a major talent writing right now. My copy of There There arrived today. It's nearly 3 AM, and I just finished. No food, no sleep; I couldn't put this book down.

"This there there. He hadn’t read Gertrude Stein beyond the quote. But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there."


That title gathers more meaning with every character, chapter and section. By the end the weight of not knowing exactly who you are or where you come from is a heavy weight even for a reader. All the characters have different experiences and difficulties, but they are all in search of connection to their own community, and none seem sure they belong to that community or if that community will allow them to belong to it. What is the character with an advanced degree in Native American Studies to do when he can't find a job? What about someone born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome who wears his face as a constant reminder? What about native peoples who have to learn all of their heritage and how to practice it from YouTube or Google searches? Beyond poverty, unemployment, far too much alcoholism, there is death, devastation and a lot of shame in these characters. While they don't rise above in Hollywood ways, getting through the day - learning and growing and putting one foot in front of the other - while continuing to strive for that connection is pretty triumphant. 

The characters are fully realized. We know why they do what they do, and we get a sense of how they feel about their current and past selves. It takes a minute but we understand their connections to each other better than they do by the end of the novel. We also get a sense of how these people came to be so broken from the proud nations that the Americas have systematically wiped out. What is most clear is that the bloodbath that came to America with the first settlers has left a never-ending trail of trauma. And in case we might miss it from just the stories, there's one of the best essays -- seemingly well-researched and certainly well-written that pulls no punches right in the beginning of the novel. While the characters don't escape unscathed, neither will a reader. In writing this so openly and leaving the sharp edges intact, Mr. Orange has held a mirror up to the Americas - whether the reader is indigenous or not.

There are many major characters in this novel, all in various stages of heading to the Oakland Powwow. While some have visited a Reservation, they are mostly urban or suburban and none seem fully connected to their native culture. This isn't a reservation story or a historical account. These indigenous people live in the here and now, in the cities (mostly Oakland) and do all of the things everyone else in the city does, including riding the subway and not dressing up (except maybe on the day of the Powwow.) At first they don't seem to be related, but as the chapters and parts of the book move along, their connections become clear and that broke my heart even more. Missed connections, searching out parents or grandchildren you've never known, searching for yourself - all of these are explored and there are no pat answers. In fact, the book ends on one of the most wistful non-answers in recent memory. I love a book that refuses to put a pretty bow on top, and had Mr. Orange packaged the ending that way, everything that came before would have been cheapened.

What you get here is a journey, good stories, interesting characters, but no perfect answers. How could there be perfect answers to such a long history of carnage and stolen identity?

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