Bookish Chatter | mid-November

Hi friends! Can you believe that next week is Thanksgiving? It sneaks up on me every year. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of preparing for these holidays in advance but I haven’t gotten there yet. Yikes! And we woke up to a blanket of snow and a 2 hour school delay for Colton this morning – winter has begun! I’m here today to share my reading for the week. It was one of those wonderful weeks when everything was just so good – I can’t wait to chat about them with you!

The Round House was my first novel by Louise Erdrich back in 2020. I gave it three stars then because I wasn’t wild about the teenage boy shenanigans sprinkled throughout. You know how the 80s was full of movies about teenage boys from the 50s? Jumping on their bikes and riding into the woods and finding dead bodies and doing all kinds of teenage boy things? This was kind of like that, but set in the 80s and on a Reservation. That turned me off then, but now that I’ve read more of her novels and have a strong foundation with her characters, her genius shone through thanks to so many familiar characters and strong family lines.

This novel is told by Joe, who is looking back to 1988, the year his mother was brutally attacked. Erdrich masterfully described the trauma his entire family encountered, especially the pain and heartache endured by hist mother, Geraldine. She also focused on how unfair the criminal justice system can be when crimes are committed on Reservation land by non-Natives. It’s another glimpse into how the US government continues to take advantage of and devalue the lives of Indigenous people. This was another point that sank in deeper by rereading this after living through 2020 – a year when so many of us made an effort to learn more about race and justice in America. Louise Erdrich is my hero and I wish she’d win a Pulitzer – “for distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life” – because what gets more American than this?

I finished Babel! I moved as slowly as I could through it because I didn’t want it to end. I wrote a bit about this last Wednesday so forgive me for repeating myself. This is set in Oxford in the mid-1800s and is billed for fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and The Secret History (both of which I read in October!). The main character is Robin Swift, a young boy rescued from China after his family dies of the plague. He’s brought up by an Oxford professor who is trying to turn him into the perfect translator. Translators at Oxford are called Babblers and are a critical part of ensuring that the British Empire runs smoothly.

This book is about so much – colonization and what happens when larger countries raid smaller countries of their natural resources (material goods, language, and their brightest people, among others) and use those resources to enrich themselves. It’s about how clever these large countries are at blaming the smaller countries for their own challenges despite leaving them little to work with. It’s also about racism – what it’s like to be a brown face in a sea of white and the constant barrage of aggressions people face. It’s about reconciling your own success with the systemic inadequacies that hinder others. And it’s about what we’re willing to give up in order to ensure equality for all. So much! And so brilliant, thought-provoking, and magical. All the stars!

I was on the fence about Crying in H Mart for a long time. I got on the waiting list months ago and then let my hold go back without listening. I wasn’t sure about it because it’s about grief and I haven’t been in the mood for that sort of thing. But I finally got back on the waitlist and waited another couple of months for my hold to come back around. And on top of all of that dithering, it sat on my Libby shelf for over a week before I decided that I needed to at least start it.

The good thing is that this book wasn’t debilitatingly sad. The best part is that it’s full of the most amazing food. I was so glad that I listened on audio because I wouldn’t have been able to pronounce any of the South Korean words. I also enjoyed it because the author and I seem to be about the same age, given that she mentioned downloading music on Limewire and writing in her Livejournal when she was in high school. So those references made me chuckle. My two cents: don’t be put off by this book if you’re worried that it will be too sad, there’s enough joy (with the food) to counteract the sadness. And if you’re like me and love South Korean vloggers on YouTube, then I think you’ll really enjoy this book!

Anything Is Possible is the second book in the Lucy Barton series. I have read these all out of order but that hasn’t hindered my enjoyment of this series. This one was a set of interconnected short stories all focused on the people in Lucy’s life when she lived in Amgash as a little girl. We knew that Lucy struggled mightily growing up and this gives us some insight about what was happening around her at the time.

The stories were beautiful – they showed just how difficult life is for all of us, even those who might seem to have it all. In one of the stories, Mary says to her daughter Angelina: “We’re all just a mess, Angelina, trying as hard as we can, we love imperfectly, Angelina, but it’s okay.” I mean – how perfect is that? I loved all of them, even the creepy and weird ones. I love Lucy Barton. I love Elizabeth Strout. And I love this narrator! She is the perfect voice for Lucy. I’m on the waitlist for Lucy by the Sea and am anxious to get it!

Hi, yes, another Captain Underpants reread is under our belts. This one describes how George and Harold met way back in Kindergarten and we learn about The Ghost of Wedgie McGee. We also meet Kipper Krupp and his friends – a gang of sixth graders who bully the Kindergarteners and steal their lunch money every day. Don’t worry, they get their comeuppance. I’ve said it a million times: I’m thrilled to be able to read aloud to my children as much as we manage. And if Bryce wants to reread the same Captain Underpants novels before bed every single night, then that is what we’ll do!

I am sorry that I didn’t show up on Monday morning – I was planning to share a finished project but didn’t finish it in time. The project is now complete and pictures are taken, I just have to finish writing the blog post. I hope to have it ready by Friday. I can’t wait to show you! Until then – take good care.


18 thoughts on “Bookish Chatter | mid-November

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  1. I’m going to have to get on the holds list for Babel! I, too, really enjoyed My Name is Lucy Barton and Oh William! I have Anything is Possible on my shelf and really ought to get to it soon. LOL I love having lots of book possibilities on my shelf! 🙂


    1. I hope you can read Babel soon – it was amazing! And my friend Laila calls those “possibility piles,” — and you’re right — it’s wonderful to have so many choices! Anything is Possible was wonderful – a little strange and weird sometimes, but completely wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am on the waitlist for Babel… and your thoughts on it makes me want it SOON! (I have some audible credits, I might use one for it!) I am so loving JS&MrN… it is so good! I also loved Crying in the H Mart… I found it poignantly beautiful… and the food!


    1. I hope you’re able to get it soon! If you’re enjoying JS&MN on audio, then I think you’ll also enjoy Babel on audio. And Babel will be a much shorter listen – it’s about half the length of JS&MN. And yes – the food was wonderful in Crying in H Mart. It made me want to cook!


  3. I am very anxious to read Babel now! I have a long wait at the library, but I’m hoping they’ll acquire more copies of the book due to demand. I loved Crying in H Mart as well, even with the grief, and only wish I could have tasted all the Korean food that’s mentioned while I was listening!

    Forget the Pulitzer — I want Louise Erdrich to win the Nobel!

    I have to say that Lucy by the Sea was my favorite of all the Lucy books. I hope you can read it soon!


  4. What a fantastic reading update!! I definitely have Babel on my list – might be reading with eyes and ears in tandem … it seems like a story I’ll just want to be immersed in!


    1. YES! You’ll want to move into Magpie Lane in Oxford and walk the streets with Robin and his cohort. Maybe grab a pot of tea and some scones before class. I can’t wait until you read it!


  5. I loved that Strout novel – she’s so good. I aim to get back to reading her in 2023.

    Good to know about Crying in H Mart! I haven’t added it to the TBR because of grief stuff but good to know it didn’t shred you totally. I might add it one day.


    1. YES! I think I’d like to reread Olive Kitteridge and then start on Olive’s series in 2023. So many good books!

      I was pleasantly surprised by Crying in H Mart. I did leak a few tears but there were no heaving sobs like I expected. And the food takes it over the top!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved JS&MN (though it’s years since I read it – maybe I need a re-read), so will definitely have a look at Babel, thanks for sharing your thoughts on it 🙂


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