Honeydew Bridge

Honeydew Bridge

When I turned fifty, I had recovered from busting my ACL on the ski mountain. My horse was sold. My son was off to school. I was not yet a principal at my school. Deep in my gut was a burning irritation with life that I could not soothe. I needed something to throw myself against. My husband had a 1983 Honda Magna that we would ride on the highways in the Eastern Sierra mountains. Even if I was on the back it made me smile.

One day he stopped on the way to Mammoth and told me to get off. I had…

Do You See Me Now? A Book Review.

Choi, Susan. Trust Exercise. Henry Holt, 2019.

Defined by the author as an exercise in dreaming, this winner of the National Book Award, to call this work a novel seems deceptive. That’s what Choi is – deceptive. Posing as love stories so well that the Library of Congress catalogs this work as such, the three sections of this work, the Trust Exercises, require the reader’s trust and their perception beyond the engaging tales Choi offers. Choi requires us to feel the cost of trust betrayed.…

Book 10 of Books That Blew Me Away

High Tide in Tuscon book

High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never by Barbara Kingsolver

This has been on my shelf for more years than I care to say. It was published in 1995. I return to it again and again because of the beauty of the language and the vision into the life of a writer traveling the world. And yet one of the most tender stories tells about my two favorite subjects – motorcycles and librarians.  Set in her high school in Kentucky, Kingsolver tells of her intellectual and moral coming of age reading…

Book 9 of Books that Blew Me Away

Bastard Out of Carolina book

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

There are many reasons we enjoy reading. Sometimes I read because it strips my illusions away. My eyes are cleaned and I see the world anew. This is the story of Bone, a girl stained by the label of “bastard” on her birth certificate. In the midst of the poverty, abuse, and violence, her mother focuses her shame on this label. Bone is raped and beaten by her mother’s boyfriend. Raylene, Bone’s aunt, takes her to raise. As Bone is recovering, her mother…

Number 8 of books that blew me away

Hillbilly Elegy book

As I said, I have returned South. Vance’s about his story about his family’s move from Appalachian Kentucky to Ohio and his eventual graduation from Yale Law School is well written. Along with his personal tale of a family torn by poverty, drugs, violence, and abuse, he quotes studies about the economic and sociological/psychological factors involved. In his grandparent’s exodus from Appalachia and his escape from a life of drugs and social services to the Marines, I hear a familiar trajectory. He loses…

Number 7 of books that blew me away

Where All Light Tends to Go book

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

Home I came to the South and in some ways, it is as if I never left. That is how this book made me feel. I knew some of these folks in my time - hell, I still know some of them. Jacob McNeely of Cashiers, a small North Carolina mountain town, has only one flickering candle left in the window, his high school love, Maggie. Hip deep in the world of meth dealing presided over by his father; Jacob is set to inherit the “family business.” Maggie can see a…

Book 6 of books that blew me away

The Underground Railroad book

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Pulitzer Prize winner for 2017 (among other awards), Whitehead drew me in and kept me believing in his alternative history novel. Using history, true and altered, and magical realism, he follows two slaves escaping in the 1800’s. I found that the gritty truth of the history of slavery mixed with the magical underground railroad ( a real underground train!) helped to balance my emotional response as a reader. The truth of history is too brutal for hope…

Number 5 of books that blew me away

Tell Me a Riddle book

Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen (1961) brings the sent of my grandmother’s iron to me in “I Stand Here Ironing.” This is a small collection of short stories with words as carefully chosen as the stones in the pocket of a four-year-old, and just as valuable. The lives on display here can be pondered for a long time. Take the time to think after reading this.

Number 4 of books that blew me away

NW book

Hang on to your hats folks.

NW by Zadie Smith (2012) brought me to my knees as a reader. Once I recovered I read it again. This book is thick with both action and philosophy and literary tricks. I had to take notes to follow the characters and who was talking as well as do some reading on the background of London culture. It follows four characters in northwest London using a variety of literary techniques - switching voices, a stream of consciousness narrative, and incomplete thoughts that…

Number 3 of Books That Blew Me Away

Brief and Wondreous Life Book

I recently reread The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) by Junot Diaz. The story of a nerdboy Dominican Republic American struggling with love and life, it holds my attention to the end. Although the fantasy and gamer jargon and the DR Spanglish may confound a reader, there are many line by line definitions to be found if you just search the title on the Internet.
It is a heartbreakingly beautiful reflection on manhood and the essence…