July 31, 2011Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick
I added this book to my TBR list after Meg Cabot mentioned her essay in it. I was a voracious reader as a child and still have fond memories of many of the books I devoured during that time. I was excited to read about those book by other people who enjoyed them as I did.
However, it turns out that with the exception of Meg Cabot's essay and about three others, I hadn't read any of the other "teen classics" mentioned herein. I guess my devotion to "Sweet Valley Twins," "Sleepover Friends" and "The Fabulous Five" series limited my other reading possibilities. I really did enjoy Meg's essay about Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret as well as the author's essay about Little House in the Big Woods. I was happy to see the inclusion It's Not The End of the World, but it's "extra credit" write up left a lot to be desired.
I ended up skimming most of this book since the essays assume episodic knowledge of the book being discussed. Since I'm not a serial re-reader of anything, much less novels I read as a child, it was hard to follow most of the essays, even those about books I had read. Disappointing.
I also gave up on page 5 of Hating Valentine's Day. Just knew it wasn't going to be a book I would enjoy. I'm really trying to read all the Red Dress Ink books, but that one just wasn't going to cut it for me.
July 17, 2011A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer
The only good thing about going to the laundromat on beautiful, sunny Sunday is that I can read about half a novel in the time it takes to wash and dry two loads of clothes and sheets. I came home after grocery shopping and burned through the rest of the book in a couple of hours. It's a quick read, but powerful nonetheless.
It was hard for me to relate to the main character as we got to know her in the midst of a family crisis. But as we get into the meat of the story, well, I don't know her, but I recognize her fear, her desperation, her anxiety. Unfortunately, thinking about wills, powers of attorney and interloping "family" members are all too real problems and I think every family has to deal with them, even if you weren't abandoned 22 years ago.
Though the characters and plot line may not be the best, the writing is solid and evocative. I definitely teared up as the book drew to a close. Thinking about my parents' mortality (see, I can't say it either) is something I may joke about with them, but face with the real thing, I think I probably understand how the characters end up where they are. I can only hope I have the same support that Grace ends up with. Trying situations really do bring out the true colors.
July 08, 2011Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
Outing myself as a big geek, but in the Lois & Clark fandom, there's a term called WHAM which stands for "Wistful, Heartwrenching, Agonizing Moment" and is defined as "When something Really Bad happens." I had read somewhere in the press leading up to the release of a FIFTH book that there was a WHAM about halfway through Sisterhood Everlasting, but that was wrong.
It happens around page 50. And from then on, it just sort of settles on your heart.
Usually I don't give a fuck about spoilers because books aren't like TV shows and no one's going to read them in the order that you do, but in this particular case, I'm going to try to be vague because it really is worth the WHAM.
Given my particular history with the nature of the event, I almost put the book down and sent it back to Amazon. I've lived through the aftermath, more than once and had no inclination to relive that period in my life. So I put it down for a couple of days and tonight, I just picked it up again. I had to know how it ended for the Sisterhood girls. I read for three hours, straight through, just needing to know how it turned out.
The girls are all now 30, just like me. And even though I'm not an actress or a painter or whatever, I could see pieces of myself in them, just like always. I cried more than once and I still feel a little teary-eyed in the aftermath. I want to call my girls, the ones that have babies and dissertations and dogs and jobs, but we still find time to exchange 27 emails about finding a place for dinner two weeks ago.
So many books about women, the genre I read almost exclusively, has one character with a likeable flaw and a plucky best friend who tells them they are awesome or whatever and that flaw turns out to be a strength and the guy comes by with flowers and everyone lives happily ever after. I loved and hated this book because real friendship, especially after college, isn't like that. We all get busy with those babies and husbands and jobs and lives and it can be really easy to just let go or send the annual Christmas card with a bland update about vacations and first steps and promotions. I guess it just reminded me that even when I feel lonely, I'm so lucky to have my girls, who send me coupons for things that I need to save money on and with whom I can have massive discussions on Twitter about the latest gossip while we're all at work (totally on a break, of course!).
Life hits you with a WHAM every once in a while and it's easy to get stuck in that place where it never feels like it's going to be normal again. But I think if you've got your girls that you know you *can* call, even if you don't always, the boys and the babies and jobs, the rest of it, it all works out, usually in the weirdest, most perfect way.
I'm glad I finished the book. Read it on those days that you want to cry, but don't want to let yourself and blame the book. I didn't know I needed the closure with these girls, but I'm glad I got it. Yay for the Sisterhood, wherever you find them!