Sunday, July 3, 2022

Life: It Goes On - July 3

Happy Sunday! I hope you all are getting to enjoy a 3-day weekend! What are your plans for the Fourth? We are going to have friends for dinner tonight and then will watch the fireworks display our neighbor puts on every year. It's really impressive. In the morning we'll head into Lincoln to watch my dad give his annual talk at his neighborhood's 47th annual Fourth of July breakfast. This I'm celebrating revolting against tyranny.

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which has been on my TBR for years. Sadly, I'm not loving it but I'm not yet half way through it so I'll see if it can change my mind. 

Watched: College World Series baseball, some HGTV, and last night, with Miss H, we watched Dear Evan Hansen, which she had not seen yet. 

Read: Eleanor Brown's Any Other Family. The jury's still out on this one, too. It has promise and there's a lot to like about it. 

Made: Um, yeah, not much again. Tonight I'm going to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp and we're going to try making watermelon gin and tonics with rhubarb bitters. 

Enjoyed: The Big Guy's brother and sister-in-law made the move from their home in Iowa to the condominium they've owned in Lincoln for several years so we went in to offer them encouragement and a little help. His kids had come in to help so we were excited to see them and Miss H and Mini-him came with us so it was a big old reunion as the "kids" hadn't seen each other in quite a while. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Surprise, surprise - we came home from Lincoln yesterday with some new things so I'm planning on a little rearranging around here. Miss H actually grabbed an end table that was destined for the Goodwill because she saw potential in it and has a plan. Which means that we have to store it until she has time to work on it and room for it. But I'm pretty proud that she's inherited my eye for how to remake things into pieces you can use and love. 

Thinking About: Work. More on that next week. 

Feeling: Happy. I got a weekend with my girl, including pedicures, we got to see lots of family, and I got to have dinner with my Tier Ones last week. 

Looking forward to: Starting physical therapy this week. 

Question of the week:

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

French Braid by Anne Tyler

French Braid
by Anne Tyler
256 pages
Published March 2022 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley 

Publisher's Summary: 
The Garretts take their first and last family vacation in the summer of 1959. They hardly ever leave home, but in some ways they have never been farther apart. Mercy has trouble resisting the siren call of her aspirations to be a painter, which means less time keeping house for her husband, Robin. Their teenage daughters, steady Alice and boy-crazy Lily, could not have less in common. Their youngest, David, is already intent on escaping his family's orbit, for reasons none of them understand. Yet, as these lives advance across decades, the Garretts' influences on one another ripple ineffably but unmistakably through each generation. 

Full of heartbreak and hilarity, French Braid is classic Anne Tyler: a stirring, uncannily insightful novel of tremendous warmth and humor that illuminates the kindnesses and cruelties of our daily lives, the impossibility of breaking free from those who love us, and how close—yet how unknowable—every family is to itself.

My Thoughts:
I've been a fan of Tyler's since I picked up The Accidental Tourist, some time back in the 1980's. She writes terrifically believable quirky characters and always explores relationships in ways no one else does. She is particularly good at exploring family dynamics and is the queen of casual asides and writing that sounds exactly the way people actually speak. French Braid has all of that and yet, I'm sorry to say, this one just didn't work for me. 

Perhaps because right off the bat I became exasperated with Mercy who might rightly be considered a terrible mother. She seems not in the least concerned that her 15-year-old daughter spends their entire vacation with a 21-year-old man nor with what her 7-year-old son is doing, trusting that others will watch over him. She relies on her other daughter to actually get the family fed, to put meals on the table. Still, she seemed very hurt when David went off to college and never really kept in touch much after that. 

She is a prime example of "some people shouldn't be mothers." No sooner have the children flown the coop than she begins the slow process of moving out of the family home. Certainly Mercy would have felt, in the 1950's, that she must wed and have children, even though she was clearly a woman who never should have done either. Today she might have still felt that pressure but it would be so much more acceptable for her to live her life the way she wanted. 

The relationships between the children worked the best for me. Even though I am blessed to have three children who get along incredibly well, despite their differences, I know that is rare. The two sisters are so different, and were treated so differently growing up; it's understandable that they would bicker and have to tread carefully around each other. But also believable that when something happens in the family, they reach out to each other. A baby brother, who one sister has largely ignored and the other felt the weight of raising, continues to be an enigma to the family with whom he's never fit in. 

The publisher's summary says that this book is full of heartbreak and hilarity. The only heartbreak I felt was for Robin, who spent the rest of his life after Mercy left, pretending to his children that she hadn't; he was left in limbo. As to hilarity, I didn't find it here which was a disappointment because I used to make my husband listen to me read him funny bits of Tyler's books. I'm not sure what I wanted from this book; I just know that I didn't get it. 

Now, as always, this is just my opinion. And it seems that others enjoyed this much more. Check out Ron Charles', of the Washington Post, review. Or Jennifer Haigh's review in the New York Times. They both seem to have found the Anne Tyler that I always loved in this book. I wish I had. 



Sunday, June 26, 2022

Life: It Goes On - June 26

Happy Sunday! How's everyone doing? It's a beautiful day here, sunny and surprisingly cool out. I've got a lot I need to get done inside today but I definitely need to get outside to play in the dirt and get some Vitamin D. We'll absolutely be grilling for dinner and eating on the patio and I may even put out all of the cushions even if it's just the two of us, just so I can enjoy how pretty the patio is when everything is out. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: Still listening to The Descendents by Kaui Hart Hemmings. I don't have another audiobook that will be available for a couple of weeks to I think I'll be listening to podcasts when I'm done with my book. Right now I'm loving Glennon Doyle's We Can Do Hard Things.

Watched: Friday night we went to see the new Baz Luhrmann movie, Elvis. Long but so good. Tom Hanks is his usual amazing and Austin Butler is incredible as Elvis. When Elvis was in his final years, I was just a teenager and thought of him as something of a joke. I can't say that I've ever entirely let that image leave me, even though I enjoy his music now. But this movie made me think again about Elvis as an artist and to understand how he became a bloated drug addict who died much too young. 

Read: I'm still reading Tracy Flick Can't Win. I'm enjoying it but I think my brain is ready to be holding a physical book. I think when I finish it, I'll grab something off my shelf. I'm thinking it's time to dip into a classic. 

Made: Well this is just getting boring because it's mostly been salads and quick easy things. I am going to grill a pork tenderloin today (and maybe some peaches) and make some mashed potatoes.

Enjoyed: A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a cup rack that my mother had given my brother and his wife many years ago. They never felt like it fit the look they wanted so it has been in storage for all these years. You know how much I love having those old piece but this one was made even more special when I realized that the little drawer in it wasn't empty. Inside was a collection of souvenirs from my parents travels, a single antique furniture wheel, some antique children's china, and  very small spoon that's etched "IRAN" on the back. I love the stories that all of these things tell.

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On switching out my spring decor to something more summery and, with the 4th of July coming up, all of the red, white, and blue stuff. Which, honestly, are the colors you'll find all over my house anyway. 

Thinking About: I have an MRI scheduled for this week and I'm trying, but not succeeding very well, not to think about what the results of that might mean going forward. 

Feeling: Like we have taken one step further into The Handmaid's Tale this week.

Looking forward to: Miss H is supposed to come up this weekend and you know how much I love her visits. 

Question of the week: 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Friday Favorites - Little Women

Now here's something I haven't done in...years, actually. But when you haven't had the time to write even one review all week, you've got to pull out some old stuff! And I remember loving doing these; although, looking back, my "reviews" of these favorites were so short! But I'm kind of impressed with the range for books I featured - children's books, classics, memoir, literary. The idea at the time was to write about books that I'd read before I started blogging; and, while I didn't read as much before blogging as I do now (pesky things like school and kids, over the years, got in the way), I still read more than most people do. 

So, I'd like to bring this feature back. Maybe not every Friday (oh, who are we kidding? We all know I'm not going to get one of these written every Friday!), but at least once a month. And I'd like to make this a little interactive - I'd love for you to comment or email me about a book that was one of your favorites from years ago. 

This week, I'm going to do things a bit differently than I have in the past. This week I'd like to tell you about how a book I read when I was eight has influenced my reading for the last *cough* fifty plus *cough, cough** years. That book was Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

Now, I know that Alcott was said not to have much liked Little Women but I can never help thinking that she had written plenty of other stories that she had to have disliked more (seriously, she wrote some pretty awful stuff, by today's standards, early on). Plus, it launched her on a whole series of books that helped her support herself and her family for the rest of her life so it can't be all bad, right? 

It would be perfectly easy for me to run upstairs and snap a picture of the edition of Little Women I got when I was eight-years-old. I know exactly where it's at on my bookshelves (which is more than I can say for most books I own!). But it's late and I can't really run these days, so I was pretty excited to find a pic of the same edition I have. Although mine is in much better condition, a sign of how much I loved the book and how much I valued books, even as a little girl. 

Little Women made me want to be a writer, a teller of tales. I so wanted to be Jo (didn't we all?). But even as a young girl, I knew I was Beth - the shy girl who loved the piano (I just hoped, then, that I wasn't going to end up dying young as well!). Still, over the years, I've kept notebooks and notebooks of character sketches, story ideas, interesting names I'd like to include in a someday book, short stories, and even pieces of some novels. So maybe there's hope after all. I mean, Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was decades older than I am now. 

The other thing that Little Women did was send me down the road of read more to Alcott's works, books about Alcott and books based on her characters. It started when I was nine and received the third book in the family series, Little Men. Years later I read Jo's Boys and How They Turned Out, Eight Cousins, and A Merry Christmas. Spinoffs included Meg and Jo and March; books that got at the truth of the family included The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

And now I want to pick up something more by or about Alcott. I know I have a copy of The Quiet Little Woman and The Glory Cloak upstairs...somewhere.