Today’s reading update includes the books I finished over the last two weeks because my blog schedule went off course last week. The book I would have shared last week, No One Is Talking About This, completely through me off and killed my reading mojo for several days. I inhaled the rest of the books in this list thanks to the quick return of my reading desire!
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
“Previously these communities were imposed on us, along with their mental weather. Now we chose them—or believed that we did. A person might join a site to look at pictures of her nephew and five years later believe in a flat earth.”
I’m going to preface this by saying that I only finished this because 1) reviews on Goodreads said the second half of the book got better, and 2) it was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize. I agree that the second half was better, but am not convinced that it made up for the first half!
This book is about a young woman who is famous on the internet thanks to a viral tweet. The first 54% of the novel takes us through all of the Twitter memes from the last few years, with a few paragraphs about her own life sprinkled throughout. In the second half, her family experiences a tragedy that changes her life and she begins to think more about life outside of the internet. For me, the whole book read like a Twitter feed, which I found off-putting. I left Twitter for a reason! I know she was trying to show that there’s more to life than the internet and there are profound and painful experiences that teach us about true joy and deep heartbreak that we can’t adequately share in 280 characters or less. My response is to leave Twitter and dust off your blog. Harsh, I know – this book evoked an emotional response from me, which is probably a good thing!
I gave this book 2 stars – I considered 3 when I learned it was based on the experiences of her family. I just wish she would have couched those experiences in a fuller narrative and ditched the Twitter-speak earlier in the book.
This Day: New & Collected Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry
“He stands under them, looks up, sees, knows, and knows that he does not know.”
You’re familiar with this book if you’ve been reading my blog for a while because I’ve been sharing poems from this collection nearly weekly! According to Goodreads, I started this in December of 2019 and meandered my way through it. And still – so many of the poems, somehow, were perfect for moment I was in when reading them.
I adore Wendell Berry and am gearing up for another of his novels this summer. I find that I need to be emotionally ready for them!
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
“In those tunnels, you understand that you do not learn to love a man, because for the right man there is no need for the learning, the love is the most natural thing in the world. You understand that if you must learn to love a man, he is probably not the man you should be loving.”
I am so glad this was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize because I might not have found it otherwise. Set in the 80s, Lala is a young woman in Barbados who lives on the beach with her husband, Adan. Lala is estranged from the grandmother who raised her, despite needing someone who can protect her from her husband who is horribly abusive. One night Lala and Adan struggle over their newborn baby, a tragedy ensues, and Lala tries to end things with Adan for good. This story is told from a series of perspectives, over multiple timelines, in an agonizing and beautiful way. We see how abuse persists for generations despite our best intentions to protect our children from harm.
This is excellent on audio. The narrator’s voice and accent brought depth and beauty to the story. She was somewhat difficult to hear while I was driving in the car but I didn’t have any issues when I listened at home.
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
“It was the winter after the most depressing election of my adult life, a low point for my faith in the polls, and I had started keeping an unofficial tally in my head of how much I trusted each new white person I met. It was a pitiful tally, because I had decided most of them would forgive anyone who harmed me, would worry more about vocal antiracism ruining the holiday party season and causing the cheese plates to go to waste than about the lives and sanity of the nonwhite humans in their midst.”
This was a stunning collection of short stories, full of thoughts on race and grief. I often struggle to find meaning in short stories; I’m sure Evans layered a lot into these stories that I missed and still – I found most of them to be powerful and thought-provoking.
The Shadowlands by Katrina Charmin
This is the fifth in The Last Firehawk series, which even my 3 year old requests by name! In this installment, we race back to Valor Wood with Tag, Skyla, and Blaze to find the last piece of the ember stone, but are stalled in the Shadowlands, the home of Thorn. Luckily, we meet Monty the Mole who helps us through the tunnels and back to Valor Wood, where we join with our faithful friends in Perodia and are battle-ready for Thorn’s arrival.
This is a wicked fun series. The illustrations are engaging, the story is fast-paced and full of adventure, and the characters are supportive and kind. I’m not sure how many more books we can expect, but I hope it’s a lot!
(We are still reading The Hobbit, but took a quick break so that we could get this one back to the library before its due date.)
Long Life by Mary Oliver
“It is the performance of this hour only, the dawning of the day, fresh and ever new. This is to say nothing against afternoons evenings or even midnight. Each has its portion of the spectacular. But dawn—dawn is a gift. Much is revealed about a person by his or her passion, or indifference, to this opening of the door of day. No one who loves dawn, and is abroad to see it, could be a stranger to me.“
This is a collection of essays by the late Mary Oliver. The middle of the book confused me a bit – they were essays on Emerson and Hawthorne – but the beginning and end of the collection were full of beautiful observations and thoughts, and contained the most heart-felt advice. One more quote:
“You too can be carved anew by the details of your devotions.”
Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
“Sometimes you can’t slay those dragons; they can’t be done away with, just like that.” She snapped the fingers of her free hand. “You have to know how not to disturb them, how to mollify them if they become roused, and, above all, you have to come to respect them.”
This is the third in the Maisie Dobbs series, which I started last summer. I took a break because I wasn’t sure about the first two, but this one has me excited about continuing the series. Maisie is a private detective/psychologist in England between the two wars. She was a nurse in the first war and experienced a terrible tragedy that continues to haunt her. In this novel, she’s hired by two different people to confirm the locations and details of the deaths of young men who went missing during the war. The plot was complex with several moving pieces, so it kept me focused on what was happening. I love how Winspear holds her cards close to her chest throughout the mystery!
When I finished this one, I immediately got on the waitlist for the next in the series. The predicted wait is thirteen weeks, oof! I’m hoping the list moves more quickly than anticipated.
✔️ The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – ★★★★★
✔️ Piranesi by Susanna Clark – ★★★★
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller – started last night!
✔️ Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – ★★★★★
My top contender: I’m still going with Transcendent Kingdom, but How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a very close second. I will live in an even deeper state of perpetual self-doubt if No One is Talking About This wins.
I hope that next week’s book update won’t be quite so overwhelming and the rest of your week is full of good books. I hope to be back on Friday with a list of joyful moments from this week – take good care!