Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

The Tie That Binds
After reading Benediction a few weeks ago, I decided to check out other books by the author. Of course, as often happens with library requests, they all came in at once. What I really like about Kent Haruf's books is that they aren't entirely happy, but they are true to life. They balance out joy with sorrow... and sometimes, there is more sorrow. This book starts out with an eighty-year old woman, Edith, who is charged with murder and then flashes back over her life. Growing up with a dad who values his kids as little more then possessions, her brother escapes, but out of duty and responsibility, she gives up her life and stays with her dad--miserable as it may be. This was heartbreaking, but also a beautiful story.
Like all of Haruf's books, it is set in Holt, Colorado and as I read more, I started to notice repeating minor characters, which I liked, too. He also used quotation marks in the dialogue in his earlier books, which made me happy!

Watcher in the Woods
This is a YA lit, sci-fi/horror novel, that is part of a series. I read the first book in the series (House of Dark Shadows) awhile ago when it was a free download, then I couldn't find the next book in the series because the library didn't have any of them yet. They finally do, so I was able to continue. The basic gist of the series is that a boy and his family move into an old house in a small town, to discover that the old house has a hallway on the third floor where all the rooms are time portals into dangerous periods of history. Unfortunately, they also discover that while they can go in, things can come out.

Where You Once Belonged
This is one of those books that packs a strong punch. The town's golden boy goes away to college, flunks out. Comes back and is still the golden boy, until the golden boy goes completely awry. It's kind of a perfect story in what happens when a small town over-inflates an ego--incredibly relevant with the recent news in Steubenville and probably something that happens in most small towns across the country.

Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure that Took the Victorian World by Storm
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this one interested me. Prior to the mid-1800s, gorillas had rarely been seen by anyone by native African tribesman. This book is about the explorer who set out to find them and the struggles he faced with the evolution debate, racism at the time, as well as simply exploring Africa. Parts of it were a little dry, but overall, this was a really interesting read about a piece of scientific history that I don't know much about.

This book switches between several characters: a high school teacher whose wife won't get out of bed and his two sons; a 17 year old pregnant girl and the two older, bachelor brothers who agree to take her in; and Maggie Jones, the teacher who brings them all together. I fell in love with the characters in this story, particularly Victoria, the pregnant girl, and the McPheron brothers, who take her in. Their relationship was multi-layered and really beautiful. I loved this one so much that I was even able to get past the lack of quotation marks, which is saying a lot. There is no huge plot climax in this story. No dramatic moment. Instead, the moments in this story are found within the bonds of human relationships.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Two non-fiction books in one week! I really enjoyed this book--it was sort of like Tina Fey's Bossypants, but the serious, research-driven version. Although I'm not the COO of Facebook or anything close to important, I could relate to so much of what Sheryl Sandberg said in this book, especially when she talked about the way women hold themselves or the way women are seen. Two especially poignant pieces were that even at young ages, boys who are direct are characterized as strong or leaders. Girls who are direct are seen as bossy, even though they may hold the exact same qualities as the boys who are seen as strong or leaders. Something else that struck me is that when self-evaluating, women are more likely to mark themselves down than men. By and large, when I have my students grade themselves on a rubric, the girls will score themselves lower than the boys. Why? Why at the age of 14 do girls already question why they aren't good enough? Some of the criticism that I saw of this book was that the author is blinded by her privilege, that she can't really tell women to lean in, because she has no idea what it's like to HAVE to work. And while yes, this is a woman who continues to work because she chooses to do so and I may be in a different boat, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't still learn to hold myself with self-confidence while working--or that I shouldn't push myself to do better. That doesn't mean that I couldn't relate to her struggles about pumping at work or feeling like she doesn't measure up to stay at home moms because she can't volunteer at her kids' school. I'm not a millionaire, I don't have personal assistants, sure, but I can see eye-to-eye with her on both of those. And I could certainly relate to this:
"We all want the same thing: to feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us. So let's start by validating one another. Mothers who work outside the home should regard mothers who work inside the home as real workers. And mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option."
Yes. Maybe once we stop tearing each other down, we will learn to build ourselves up.

This is somewhat the sequel to Plainsong, as it continues the stories of the characters met in that book, but it also introduces new characters. Like Plainsong, it's not about huge moments, but rather about the small moments that forge human connections. Again, my favorite characters in this book were Victoria and the McPheron brothers, but the author introduced a set of mentally challenged parents and their children that somehow alternately gained pity and disgust all at the same time.

What are you reading?


One crazed mommy said...

Seriously...7 books!? How do you do it?!!! I'm envious! :) Adding more to my read list which is continuously growing instead of shrinking.

Brooke said...

i love new books to check out!!! :)

Lyndsay said...

Thanks for the recommendation - I am loving Plainsong. I just want to drive to wherever they are and sit on the porch with Victoria and make her some tea.