“Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive. The next thing you know something fine will happen to her, something marvelous, and then she will turn around and smile.” Little Bee (my favorite quote
“–The glass front door revealed a house filled with windows and these windows were filled with lake.”
So begins the luminously beautiful journey of Beryl Singleton Bissell’s, “A View of the Lake.”
Beryl’s short stories are like glimmering jewels for the mind and soul. She brings her readers into a world where humanity & nature become one. A world so thoroughly magical & melodious that we don’t want to depart once we’ve entered.
And one needn’t live on the North Shore or be good Minnesotan to cherish the insights about life.
“Place reveals itself one day at t time…in the end it’s not the accumulation of facts that matter, but the wisdom born in the journey.”
In “A Summer Case of Spring Fever,” Beryl chats to the glue eyed grass. “….look at you,” she exclaims, “if you aren’t the most beautiful little things!” Moreover, she admits to Congratulating the winter wrens for their glorious songs.
I found myself shading with yellow marker line after line of beauty as I do with the great poets. I found myself wanting to visit the post office in Schroeder to sip strong coffee and gossip with the locals. I found myself wanting to sit on the deck with Beryl to listen to the rippling waves of Lake Superior.
“This is the place where we came in search of a home and found as well our reason for being.”—A View of the Lake
—-Oh, one more thing. Beryl, you may not see yourself as a naturalist… but you are. You Are!
“Fire“ by French author, Anais Nin, is aptly named. This is only one of her many journals, which is unbelievably …. Raw. Uncensord. Sexy. Hot. Searching. Provocative. Experimental & flowing with vivid –stunning vocabulary. Anais was ahead of her time. She is one of my favorite naughty, glamorous, exotic creatures. “We do not see things as they are….We see things as We are”—Anais Nin
THE UNABRIDGED JOURNALS OF SYLVIA PLATH: Will burst into flame inside the reader’s hands. My palms are still burning, my heart is still throbbing. No journal is more raw, more heartbreaking, more beautiful……
……Anne Michael’s poetry beats inside the reader’s hands like a living heart. I discover the poets I need at the right times I need them. Anne’s words burn, burn, burn like prayers…..WOW, I love this woman.
“Flowers” by Anne Michaels
There’s another skin inside my skin
that gathers to your touch, a lake to the light;
that looses its memory, its lost language
into your tongue,
erasing me into newness.
Just when the body thinks it knows
the ways of knowing itself,
this second skin continues to answer.
In the street – café chairs abandoned
on terraces; market stalls emptied
of their solid light,
though pavement still breathes
summer grapes and peaches.
Like the light of anything that grows
from this newly-turned earth,
every tip of me gathers under your touch,
wind wrapping my dress around our legs,
your shirt twisting to flowers in my fists.
Just a few words that describe “Lit,” a memoir by Mary Karr. To say I am completely blown away by this book is an understatement. If you don’t believe my accolades take it from an expert. Susan Cheever of the New York Times says…
“Karr has written the best book about being a woman in America I have read in years.”
If you’re not familiar with this brilliant poet and award-winning author, here’s a brief introduction. In 1995, her first memoir, “The Liars Club” became an instant hit, remaining on the Best SellerList for 1 ½ years and was recently ranked by Entertainment Weekly as #4 in the “Top One Hundred Books of the Last 25 Years.” The Liar’s Club describes Karr’s hardscrabble Texas childhood with her artistic, eccentric, alcoholic mother and her hard-working, salt- of- the- earth alcoholic father.
Karr’s second memoir “Cherry” delves into the turbulant teenage years; a raw and feminine “Catcher in the Rye”.
“Lit” follows Karr into an ill- fated marriage, the trials of motherhood, the world of alcohol abuse, and finally, into the “Mental Marriot” after she reaches rock bottom. Woven throughout the whole story is her sharp sense of humor, her quest to be a “writer,” and her surprising fall into an unorthodox State of Grace.
Karr’s captivating personal story will rope the reader in… and hold her captive like a rodeo steer. The honesty in “Lit” is unmatched. Karr paints herself with a large, dry brush; a realistic, flawed and multidimensional character. The images are as vivid as a Texas sunrise; the language is as spicy as a habanero.
Yes, Karr ia flawed and imperfect, but this is preciecley the reason we identify with .
~~~I have been awakened by A Thousand Splendid Suns.
If one is able to read this book without transforming in some small way, that particular person is without a pulse or a heart.
This is a narrative about oppression, terror, bondage, love, and friendship. It is a story of two women who find one another in the midst of horrific circumstances… and in those circumstances, discover their true identities.
The women also discover glimmers of hope and light and a thousand splendid suns hidden inside the darkness.
Muriam and Laila are married to the same man… or should I say the same devil.
In a place (Afghanistan) where women have fewer rights dogs, I found myself thanking God for my freedom–and at the same time felt guilty for that same freedom.
When one knows, one is no longer ignorant. When one knows….one must act.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” will make the reader scream, cry, yell, and want to become pro-active.
If one can read this book and without responding…..this will be the greatest sin of all…
A journey we can all go on….
“The day I got married, I was delighted with the possibilities a lifetime partner to honor and cherish, and have babies, and power tools But the main thing that I, personally, was secretly thrilled with was that I would NEVER, EVER have to go on a date again. Especially a first date. Well, I was wrong.” —Back on Top: Fearless Dating After DivorceThe marvelous thing about finally getting back on top is that we, the readers, get to go along for the exhilarating ride… test the waters, laugh our asses off, and experience Ginger’s adventures of self discovery. We get to sit with her through 6 minute speed dating (yep, only 6 minutes), online dating (isn’t what it used to be), and my favorite, the “lock and key” parties. Nope. It’s not what you think so get your mind out of the gutter. It’s not like that 70’s film where Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline put their car keys in a bowl and go home with the man/woman who pick up their key. Tisk, tisk, you naughty, naughty girls.
Ginger Emas allows the reader to belly laugh at her expense. She gives us advice about what to wear for a first date (nothing too low cut, but bring out your best assets), dating Exes and not yet Exes, juggling men (must be a rough life), being a Cougar (it’s not just for Demi), and finding our inner Goddess.Ginger, Love ya!
~~~Sometimes it takes forty years of life, several tragedies, and three marriages before we finally get it right.
Janie got it right towards the end. Zora Neale Hurston was ahead of her time … writing about a black female hero who had opinions, spunk and did not accept the way things were.
In other words: A woman with ATTITUDE.
“What does he mean I can’t do that, do I not have a mind, an opinion, a soul?”
Inside every woman is a wild animal clawing to get out, one who believes life can be caught in mid-air, sucked up, absorbed, and transformed forever.
Now, this is the essence of “And Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
WINTERING by Kate Moses: The great Sylvia Plath has been resurrected and writes once again through Kate Moses. Plath has slid her slender, delicate hand over Moses’ as a guide, and erupts upon the pages like ball of fire. The language is delectable,lush, and almost as brillant as Plath. And the vocabulary, well let me put it this way, I kept my dictionary close by throughout the reading as the vocabulary was vast and voluptuous.
Moses utilizes Plath’s last book of poetry, “Ariel”, for her chapters: Daddy, Lesbos, Fever 103, Ariel, and of course, Wintering. She brings the reader into Plath’s state of mind, her thoughts, her feelings for Ted Hughtes, her darkness, even surprisingly, her immense joy. The reader will feel the dead of winter inside their bones, the moisure freezing inside their nostrils, and smell Plath’s sour breath upon their skin.
I appreciated this gorgeous novel because Moss portrays Plath, not as the victim, but as one whom endured life as long as she possibly could despite her depression and circumstances. Plath exclaimed, “I simply cannot see where there is to get to.” And then she ended her tragic life. I guess, one needs more than POETRY to be saved.
NOTE — With all the Plath books out there today, this is one of the best.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen : This book could have been titled “WATER FOR HUMANITY,” because this is what it is truly about. “Water for Elephants” was written with such elegance and grace that each voice will stay with the reader for a long time afterwards like an exquisite meal.
Jacob Jankouwski tells us an unbelievable tale from his rest home, and his memories are so lush and tragic that the reader will be transformed into his past and present along with him. Jacob enters the `circus life’ by no desire of his own, but this world changes him beyond belief. The reader will be changed, too, and utterly awakened by this strange, lovely world within a world. And Rosie, the elephant, becomes a rich narrative and advocate for all animals and every freak whom works inside the inner circle of the circus.
Sara Gruen has created brilliant, memorable characters, people whom I fell in love with and cared deeply about. “Water for Elephants” is a book about Humanity: how it can be dark and light at the same time, how people can change, how others do not, how survival is connected to love, and above all, how giving water to elephants is like giving water to the world. I dreaded turning the last page; I did not want to leave the circus-family and all of their peculiarities and delights. This book will leave the reader thirsty for more.
The Scent of God
by Beryl Singleton Bissell
I dreaded turning the last page of “The Scent of God” because I knew once I did, my journey with Beryl Singleton Bissell would end–and I still wanted to be part of her miraculous world.
All of us, even if we do not admit it, are seeking, perusing, and trying to find our place in the world, our essence, our God; something that will give us purpose and direction. And Beryl understands her destiny at an early age….”I want to be a saint,” she declares. She joins the convent at the ripe age of eighteen years old. This is where her wisdom, heartaches, friendships, longings, and love originates. This is where she finds the two greatest loves of her life: A Priest and God.
Beryl Singleton Bissell does not hold back in her memoir, and her honesty about the world pulling her in one direction and God pulling her in another direction creates an authentic, delicious, stunning memoir. I cannot tell the reader any more or I shall give away the unexpected, the beautiful, the unmoving wildness of human desire, which is inside all of us.
Beryl Singleton Bissell sets the reader on fire with her words and her love for the God who created her; the God, who in spite of everything, sometimes blesses the choices we decide to make.
Brava for Beryl!
A.M. Homes flings the reader inside places and situations they loathe but love in these short provocative stories about everyday people. Every character is memorable, unusual and eccentric; they are on the edge of yearning, longing, and desiring to attain something beyond their reach. Hence, Home’s narratives will resonate with us because in actuality, we too, continue to grasp for the ungraspable, the unthinkable.
Reading “The Safety of Objects” is like peeking through somebody’s window watching them undress. Each strip of clothing removed reveals something more wild and delicious about their sins, their obsessions, and their dirty little secrets. A boy in lust with a Barbie Doll; a mother murdering her disabled child; the fat girl fantasizing about normalcy; a dad lusting after a 15-year old girl; a boy wanting to stay with his kidnapper rather than go back home.
It is all so unbelievable…all so ghastly, Yet Homes is only showing us what we already know, have done, or have thought about doing. Yes, the reader will be shocked and stunned, but Homes is writing from a deep place of truth and authenticity whether we want to believe it or not. She is writing down what occurs when the doors are closed — and believe me, sister; it is not a pretty site. I love an author who holds back NOTHING. And Homes allows every single demon out of its cage in “The Safety of Objects.”
The House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III
Finally, a book that blew my tights off! “The House of Sand and Fog” has EVERYTHING a powerhouse novel should have: electrifying narratives, explosive content, and of course, flawed, unforgettable characters. Andre Dubus III writes a deliciously emotional story about an immigrant, Massoud Amir, who leaves Iran because of political reasons to come to America. Under the Shaw he wore the best French suits and Italian shoes. He WAS somebody. “I was colonel in the Imperial Air Force. Did you know that, Mr. Torez? I was colonel.” But in America, Massoud Amir is working three jobs just to keep up appearances. In America, he becomes less of a man – and the French suits and Italian shoes mean absolutely nothing.
“The House of Sand and Fog” is the story of misplaced individuals who are struggling to find themselves, individuals who cannot seem to find their way, individuals who are lost in a world they don’t belong. I appreciate how Dubus uses fog as a form of imagery throughout the book to represent disorder and confusion. And when the density of the fog becomes thick enough, none of the characters can prevent what will eventually happen in the end. Every foundation will sink into the soft sand, and sadly, nobody will find their way back into reality. A five star treasure *****
by Kathryn Stockett
I do not have enough adjectives to describe this glittering jewel of a book, so I shall begin with three: Exquisite Amazing Ass-Kicking.
Three narratives: Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. Each woman describing the treatment of blacks in Mississippi (1962), each one desiring to make a difference…change the way things have always been. “All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.” The Help
Kathryn Stockett s voice is so delectable that the readers will find themselves drenched inside a world they want to drown in and desperately want to transform. It is hard to believe that only 40 years ago –blacks in America were utilizing outside toilets, different drinking fountains, sitting in the back of the bus, and looking after white families babies. What a horrifying misfortune for all of humanity.
The Help is destined to become a classic along with To Kill a Mockingbird. I did not want to turn the last page. I was like, I am going to miss all of the women who have become my girlfriends! I wanted to stay with Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny forever. This book is about the power of females coming together to revolutionize the world. I wanted to be one of those females!
The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation
by Elizabeth Berg
Elizabeth Berg has risen. She has returned with that rich voice that grinds a heart directly into the ground; that voice that understands women so beautifully and profoundly and wholly that she becomes our girlfriend. Ms. Berg, I’ve been waiting for you to return to me, and with “Small Acts of Liberation” YOU HAVE! You really have.
This book is a series of thirteen essays, each one more delicious than the next; all of them superbly constructed: Returns and Exchanges, The Party, Rain, Double Diet, Truth or Dare, Sin City. All of the stories will dig inside the reader’s being like an old friend, a memory, or a sweet pleasure, which they’ve lost and found once again. Berg inserts food in each essay as its own character. And of course, Berg’s insight and humor are continually present and delightful.
Elizabeth Berg’s writing is like an ice-cream sundae that one desires to savor upon her tongue without ceasing…and her newest gem is a Lollapalooza. Thank you, Ms. Berg for bringing your rich voice back. I’ve been waiting for a long time. I still taste the chocolate upon my lips. Highly recommmended for Berg lovers 🙂
The Book of Ruth
by Jane Hamilton
Reading Jane Hamilton’s “Book of Ruth” is like diving into a sea of outrageous, uncivilized dysfunction. It is like drowning. It is like observing from below the surface and unable to do a damn thing about the events happening before your eyes.
If one is a writer, The Book of Ruth is the absolute perfect novel…because it is structurally superb, beautiful, full of foreshadowing (burnt black birds hanging upside down the telephone line), flowing with imagery, honesty, and most importantly, the characters are likable, hatable, and exquisitely designed. Jane Hamilton has taken a dysfunctional, uneducated family, and through her characteration and mastery, made us care about what happens to them; made us part of the family, and believe me when I say, sometimes we don’t want to be there.
“The Book of Ruth” is about families we all know–but do not invite into our lives because, well, they smell, use the wrong vocabulary, forget to brush their teeth, and make their careers at the dry-cleaners and thrift stores. These people are undesirable,invisible, and sit in the back of the bus. But Hamilton makes us live with them, get to know them, understand them, hate them, and in the end, love them, love them, love them.
One of the best novels I’ve ever read. The Book of Ruth is in my top 10 of FAB books for women.
The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath
As a young girl, I remember stumbling upon “The Bell Jar,” and I finally understood that I wasn’t alone in the world. After reading this literary classic, I fell in love with Sylvia Plath, her authenticity, her rawness, and her unique, luminous voice. I devoured her poetry fiercely as a teenager. Plath is what is titled “A confessional writer,” and “The Bell Jar,” published as fiction in 1963 under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas, follows some of the events of her early life.
Enter, Esther, a brilliant student who has been awarded a guest editorship for a national magazine. Above all else, Esther desires to be a writer, and her world is overflowing with possiblitites. Plath chronicals her teenage years, her dissapointments, her anger, her joy, and sadly, her stay in a mental institution receiving therapy and shock treatments.
Plath’s own life was choked by deep depression, which followed her like a devil until she took her own life in 1963. “The Bell Jar” was published after she died and became a best seller.
“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.” ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
“Gordie, the white boy genius, gave me this book by a Russian dude named Tolstoy, who wrote, ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Well, I hate to argue with a Russian genius, but Tolstoy didn’t know Indians, and he didn’t know that all Indian families are unhappy for the same exact reasons: the frikkin’ booze.” — Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is my all-time-favorite book of 2009! Sherman Alexie writes from his own experience as fourteen-year-old geek, Arnold, who lives on the Rez. Alexie’s voice is so amazingly powerful and profound, raw and real, that my book felt as if it could actually start on fire. One minute I was laughing my ass off and the next minute I was sobbing. One minute my entire body was aching and the next minute my body was filled with pure pleasure.
Arnold wants more. He wants to play basketball, get good grades, and go on to college. The Rez and his Spokane Tribe are pulling him in one direction and the white world and academia is pulling him in another direction. “I was the only kid, white or Indian, who knew that Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities. And let me tell you, we Indians were the worse of times and those white kids were best of times.” — Sherman Alexie (The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian)
Alexie’s book won the National Book Award, Horn Book Award, Blue Ribbon Award, School Library Award, Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and many others. His masterpiece is Catcher and the Rye and Angela’s Ashes all rolled into one. I relished this book so much that I can’t stop talking about it. I’ve ordered several copies to give to family and friends because everybody should be required to read it, devour it, love it, and savor the messages of hope, not only for American Indian people, but for ALL of humanity.
Interview With Sherman Alexie. I’m In LOVE!
Talk Before Sleep
by Elizabeth Berg
Do you have an author you continually go back to year after year? For me, this author is Elizabeth Berg. I’ve compared Berg frequently as my hot fudge sundae, my comfort food, and my girlfriend. And once again, Berg does not disappoint with “Talk before Sleep.”
This is a novel about two best friends, Ann and Ruth — about how friendship can sometimes be thicker and more powerful than blood, about how two women can love one another so profoundly that they almost become one. When Ruth is diagnosed with breast cancer, Ann leaves her life behind to take care of Ruth. They shop for wigs, laugh outrageously, talk about life, God, men, sex, and eat lots of chocolate. Berg added other characters to add a bit of drama and humor, but the essence of this jewel is about two best friends who know one another completely.
Berg understands women. This is why I keep coming back to her narratives. “Talk before Sleep” is one of her most outstanding pieces. The words and characters shine long after the last page.
Such a Pretty Fat
by Jen Lancaster
I knew immediately after reading the first page of Lancaster’s book that she was my sort of girl. The axioms above are only a slight taste of her wit, humor, and sassiness; like I said, my sort of girl. In “Such a Pretty Fat” Lancaster brings her readers into a world of dieting, starving, exercising, sweating, and sacrificing barbecued ribs for green lettuce without dressing. She brings us into a world several of us already know about.
“Today on the bus a guy called me a fat bitch,” Lancaster admits on the first page. Tell me, would you want to read more? I did. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Grapefruit diets, Boiled Egg diets; you name it, Lancaster has been on them all…and she’s pissed off about it. This book will make the reader laugh out loud, but at the same time feel deep anger for a society that worships the size one skeletal models. THIS IS NOT WHAT A REAL WOMAN LOOKS LIKE! Don’t you all get that?
“My fear locked me in a state of arrested development for so many years. Fear kept me from tackling my weight, which I understand has simply been symptomatic of my greater fear, growing up. I glide down the lane on my back and reflect on how good I feel right now. It’s not because I’ve lost more than thirty pounds. I feel incredible because I’ve stopped being afraid” —Jen Lancaster, Such a Pretty Fat
Listen To Jen Describe her Struggle with FAT!
by Lisa Genova
Imagine yourself jogging in your own neighborhood and quite suddenly – not being able to find your way home. Imagine pulling your underwear over your head rather than your bra. Imagine not recognizing your own face in the mirror. Now imagine that woman is you.
“Still Alice” is a powerful, painful narrative about a highly respected 49- year-old Harvard Professor, Alice Howland, whom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. In this exquisite novel, Lisa Genova brings the reader directly into Alice’s world of Alzheimer’s disease. She brings us on an intricate journey of darkness, forgetfulness, and the decline of the mind step by step and page by page, until we feel as if we are losing pieces of our minds, too.
Alice is asked five questions throughout the reading of the book by her doctor: 1. What is your name? 2. Where do you work? 3. Where is your office? 4. When is your daughter’s birthday? 5. Where do you live?
In the last chapter, Alice cannot answer a single question. To be quite truthful, I’m angry as hell about that. I’m angry because Alzheimer’s steals the very essence of who we are. It takes EVERYTHING. It is a Monster and a Thief. It is the Devil himself. What we are left with in the end of this disease is a mere shell of who we once were, because the soul has already risen.
***I lost sleep after reading this book, but still, it is highly recommended. You will never feel the same about Alzheimer�s disease or the people in your lives that have it.
by Li-Young Lee
Kafka stated… “We ought to only read books that stab us.” Li-Young Lee has stabbed directly through the heart with “Rose.” In these beautifully crafted poems, he has interlaced the past with the present, his Chinese heritage, his mother, his father, his wife…but Oh, his mother is so very present. Reading Lee’s poetry is like soaking in a warm bath, having a lovely dream, remembering something beautiful. The language dripped inside my body and mind like a benediction, a blessing, something sweet.
“In my dream I fly
past summers and moths,
to the thistle
caught in my mother’s hair, the purple one I touched and bled for, to myself at three, sleeping beside her,
waking with her hair in my mouth.”
Oh, it is almost too much to absorb!
Reading Lolita in Tehran
by Azar Nafisi
“If I turned towards books, it was because they were the only sanctuary I knew, one I needed in order to survive, to protect some aspect of myself that was now in constant retreat.” –AZAR NAFISI
“Reading Lolita in Tehran” is about one woman’s journey to find sanctuary and refuge in the midst of burkas, morality police, fundamentalist extremists, and inhumanity. It is about building women’s relationships when it appears love and hope are forever lost.
Professor, Azar Nafisi, gathers seven of her most promising students at her home for a book club. The women discuss authors such as Nabokaov, Fitzgerald, James, and Austin. They eat chocolate, giggle, and talk about their personal lives. They savor words in their mouths and live vicariously through fiction. Oh, fiction can be such an escape from reality.
“Our world under the Mullah’s rule was shaped by the colorless lenses of the blind censor.”–AZAR NAFISI
What I found fascinating is the women observe their own lives while reading Lolita, The Great Gatsby, and Pride and Prejudice. In Lolita, they observe the domination and prison Lolita endures by the hands of a man, Hubert Hubert. Thus, their own Islamic Republic in Iran. Nafisi has woven Alice and Wonderland throughout her book–because fiction is that Wonderland one is able to step into, escape from, and retreat deeply inside in order to survive and endure. Reading beautiful fiction is like walking into the light.
The burka is a clear metaphor for the tyranny and oppression Iranian women suffer, but mere cloth cannot cover the emotion these women experience, the pure passion they possess within, their desperate desire to feel the breeze upon their skin, the emancipation upon their brows. Some things cannot be taken away or caged up—Like hope, the freedom inside, and the SOUL…and sometimes those things can only be found through fiction, literature, and women gathering together for a common cause.
Highly recommended. Beautiful, profound, and significant book for every women in all corners of the earth.
by Jodi Picoult
n nineteen minutes a world can turn upside down, inside out, and transform into Hell on Earth. That’s precisely what happens inside Sterling High School. One minute life is going forward as expected and the next minute it stops. Just STOPS. And Hell arrives. The Devil shows up with a shot gun and murders every student in sight.
Jodi Picoult’s writing style allows the reader to climb inside every character’s psyche and perspective. As I read, I thought to myself, “No way is Picoult going to make me feel empathy for the shooter, Peter Houghton. Absolutely Not!” But she did. Not only for the shooter, but for a whole society.
On Peter’s first day of Kindergarten, his mom packed a lovely lunch in his small tin box: sandwiches, Twinkies, an apple, a little bit of love. And some bully throws the entire box out of the bus window and here we are left with an image of a large red apple rolling down the cement highway. And this is only the beginning of Peter Houghton’s tormented school experience.
The narrative weaves back and forth, each character getting his or her chance to yell, scream, cry, and analyze the tragedy: Peter’s mom, the families of the victims, the students, prosecutors, defense lawyers, survivors, and the teachers. They all get an opportunity to speak. One thing is for sure, Picoult makes her readers ride a roller coaster of deep emotion, heartbreak, and indecision. Nothing. Absolutely nothing…is black or white or this way or that way. And in the end, we need to make our own decision about whether we will forgive Peter Houghton for his horrific, evil, life changing decision to pick up that gun, walk into Sterling High School, and KILL.
“I never found who I really wanted to kill.” Peter finally confesses to his attorney. “Who was that?” He asks. “Myself.” Peter says.
by Vladimir Nabokov
“LOLITA, LIGHT OF MY LIFE, FIRE OF MY LOINS, MY SIN, MY SOUL. Looo-Leee-Taaa. The tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps. Looo-Leee-Taaa.” — Humbert Humbert
Vladimir Nabokov is a genius, a god. He can take a devil like Humbert Humbert and make his readers feel empathy for him, make his readers feel what he is feeling. And that’s not fair because Humbert Humbert is a pervert, a pedophile, and a monster. He even admits it himself… “If only she saw the monster behind the eyes. I am the devil’s play thing.”
Humbert Humbert is also a poet, an intellectual, fluidly articulate, and good looking. The reader will hate him and pity him at the same time. His thoughts are written so beautifully, so superbly, that the reader may forget for a moment what he truly is: Satan incarnate. You see, Humbert Humbert likes young girls (Nymphets) as he calls them but especially Lolita. He describes her knees, her legs, her soft skin, the way her hair drapes over her apple fresh cheeks. How lovely. How wicked. He describes his 35 year old wife like this: “Being with her was like thrashing inside a decaying forest.” Shame on you, Humbert Humbert.
Nabokov is so smart. The reader may be wondering why Humbert Humbert is used twice– because he is two people: Monster & Human. He cannot even talk about himself in first person: “Humbert Humbert is the Devil’s plaything, a monster.” Nabokov touches on something all of us can identify with in some strange, immoral way, and we may speculate why we continue reading. After all, Humbert Humbert is appalling and sinful and hideous but Lolita is bursting with beauty and music and so deliciously lyrical that we cannot stop. The words seduce us, entice us, and draw us into Nabokov’s brilliance until we drown inside his words. This book cannot be rated. It is off the charts.
I Feel Bad About My Neck
by Nora Ephron
I am just wild about Nora Ephron. In fact, I predict that every woman who reads “I Feel Bad about My Neck,” will fall in love with her, too. You know why? Because she makes us feel good about ourselves; she makes us realize that we ARE or WILL BE in the same situation one day, and that growing older, damn it, is inevitable.
One of my favorite segments is when Ephron meets all of her girlfriends in a swanky restaurant. “They all had on scarves or turtle-necks,” she says. “The face can lie, but the neck tells the truth!” Ephron goes on to say, “I woke up with a mustache one morning. What the hell happened?” “I Feel Bad about My Neck” is filled with short, witty, sassy, insightful, hilarious essays about women: Necks after 60, Finding the Right Purse, Divorce, Marriage, Teens, and even Meeting JFK!
While most of us are worried about losing 10 pounds, getting Botox, and our once tight asses falling to the floor, Ephron is not. She is laughing, laughing, laughing. And she’ll make the readers laugh with her!
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith
by Anne Lamott
OHHHH, what can one say about dear, hilareous Anne Lamott? I could read her essays all day long, allow her humor, language, and insight to immerse me, flow over me, absorb inside of me.
This is how Lamott prays: “Help! Help! Help! Please! Please! Please! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! She is a woman after my own heart. For readers, especially Christians, whom find Lamott offensive, I say to them… Too bad! It’s her honesty, authentic self, and even her deep flaws that make people say, “Yeah,girlfriend, I understand. I’ve been there.”
“Grace, Eventually” is a book of essays, some humorous, and others heartbreaking, but NEVER, NEVER boring. Lamott talks about motherhood, alcoholism, men, addiction, and the BIG J. (Jesus). Several times I found myself screaming, “That’s me! I feel that way, too!” Lamott’s imperfections are what make this book interesting, is what makes me love Anne Lamott. She is not perfect, but Jesus loves her anyway. My promise to readers….You will not be disappointed reading any of Lamott’s books, only better after reading them. I highly reccommend “Traveling Mercies.”
by Susan Minot
“Evening” is written so stunningly that one must, at times, hold their breath, anticipating the next shimmering sentence. Anne Lord slips in and out of conscientious as she waits to die. Minot brings the reader in and out of Anne’s mind like something flowing, sometimes gushing, and at times, like a bomb going off directly in our faces. Minot does this with such great perfection and completeness that the reader will enter Anne Lord’s world as if they were sitting at her bedside, wiping her forehead, listening to her shallow breathing, and inhaling death themselves. Yes, Minot is a genius.
“Evening” is a Picasso painting with a heartbeat. Every sense will be heightened and alive; every moment matters; every disconnected brush stroke will reconnect in the end. In death, Anne Lord finally aquires the life she so despartely wanted from the beginning.
***I’ve read this book four times. Quite honestly, it’s one of the most surperb, well written books I’ve ever encountered***
by Anne Roiphe
In the midst of my own grief and mourning, I stumbled upon Epilogue: a raw, flowing, beautiful memoir about author, Anne Roiphe, (trying ) to move on after her husbands heart attack. “Time is the widows friend, they say. But what they say is not always true. What I know is that time is moving forward while the face of the moon changes and changes back again and I am here suspended in time…like a fly waiting for release.” Epilogue
I LOVED this book. I love Roiphes indisputable voice, her gorgeous language, her sassiness. I love that she does not write her story with rose colored glasses, but she inscribes the words with her own blood. Losing a loved one hurts like hell, like triple hell, and its difficult to move forward. But Roiphe does move forward the best way she knows how; she even begins dating again on Harmony.Com. The thing is: Nobody can replace our first love. Nobody. This is a book about putting one foot in front of the other after losing our soul-mates. It is a book about survival. It is like poetry.
Jot down Anne Roiphes name. Her words are worth devouring.
by Jeanne Ray
Take a middle aged housewife, a husband who just lost his job, a sarcastic old grandma, an artsy piano playing grandpa, and a snotty know-it-all-teenager…who all live under the same roof and what do you end up with? All of the right elements for a savory novel!
While the rest of the world copes with dysfunction by getting drunk, smoking weed, or writing poetry…Ruth bakes cakes! And not just your run-of-the-mill cakes, but unbelievably moist, delectable cakes. Sweet potato cakes, expresso cakes, orange cake w/burnt orange frosting.
ohhhhhhhh yeeees, Baaaby!
Instead of blowing up and going crazy…Ruth measures baking powder, sugar, flour, pure vanilla and beats the mixture to purrfect perfection. In the midst of chaos…Ruth bakes and bakes and bakes….and then, she will even sell her masterpieces in pretty pink boxes. “When I want to go someplace, a quiet safe place, I go inside a cake,” Ruth says.
“Eat Cake” has all the right ingrediants for a fun read. Oh, and I still taste the sugary batter opon my tongue!
by Augusten Burroughs
Augusten Burrough’s memoir, DRY, is an incredibly candid account of an alcoholic and drug addict who has fallen so deep into the abyss that he is finding it impossible to climb from the darkness into some sort of light.
Burrough’s honesty is what makes this book readable, authentic, and completely unable to put down. He does not allow the reader to speculate, rather he tells us exactly how it was: cocaine, whiskey, confusion, relationships, depression, and his homosexual encounters are all raw and quite present. Burrough brings the reader into the black hole with him and although we don’t want to stay, at the same time, he is so delightful, witty, insightful, and lovable, that we do. We want him to succeed, find true love, get dry, and be oh-so-happy.
Burrough has absolutely no boundaries or limitations; he gives his readers everything; he educates us about dysfunction at its highest level. And we accept his gift of authenticity as it resonates with our every day lives…because honey, at the end of the day, we all have baggage we carry, too.
by J.M. Coetzee
The New Yorker says this about “Disgrace” —“Coetzee’s sentences are coiled springs, and the energy they release would take other writers pages to summon.”
I felt those springs release, wrench, and SNAP.
“Disgrace” begins with an affair. 52 year old, Professor David Lurie crosses the uncrossable line when he has an affair with one of his 19 year old students. And the thing is; he has absolutely no remorse. “I will not issue an apology which I may not be sincere of, sir” he says to the University Committee. Lurie is rightly fired and shunned by friends, family, and co-workers. He retreats to the Eastern Cape of South Africa where he helps on his daughter’s farm. He tries to be the father he never was. He fails miserably.
And just when the reader assumes Lurie is somewhat altering, he says this, “If a man cannot follow his instinct, he might as well be shot.” We know immediately he is unchangeable, unresponsive, unapologetic, and lost inside a world of indifference. “Disgrace” is an award winning novel with page after page of poetry and coiled up springs that erupt and explode inside the reader’s faces. I loved it!
by Josephine Hart
“Damage” is packed with so much sin, that the viewer will find it difficult to feel any empathy whatsoever for the sinners. The male character is sexually attracted to his son’s fiance, but he does not hold this passion inside, rather he unleashes this sexual perversion, which is so dramatic and animalistic that his actions cause a ripple effect beyond reason, logic, and justificatoin. Once this line is crossed, there is no turning back. An action causes a reaction. ALWAYS.
The reader will be appalled by the father’s uncontrollable behavior towards his son’s fiance, but at the same time, horrified by the fiance’s response, lack of remorse, and utter absence of conscience and morals. One CANNOT cross the uncrossable line without consequence and punishment. And “Damage” is a novel about how one action can bring the devil himself into our home, into our lives, and consequently, leave us with nothing but darkeness, despair, and death.
The entire family will suffer for all of the sins that two individuals decide to make. And the suffering will be intolorable beyond words. “Why didn’t you just kill yourself the first time it happened?” the wife asks. “I could have buried you and went on. I could have survived.”
The sinners will get everything they deserve because once the actions are taken, nothing will save them. I loved this book and had to go to confession after reading the last page. Deliciously sinful.
by Mary Karr
A professor friend of mine asked recently, “Have your read any of Mary Karr’s books because at the moment I am filled with her delectable words.” I had not. But I immediately ordered one of her first memoirs, “Cherry,” which I fell in love with.
“Cherry” is a powerful memoir about Karr’s coming of age in a backwoods East Texas town. She is the daughter of a Platholian suicidal mother and a hard-drinking-whiskey-absorbed father. And believe me when I say, Karr doesn’t hold back ANYTHING. At fourteen, she is a foul mouth, dirty talking, pot smoking, adventure seeking, boy obsessed,impertinent young teen. But don’t let the bad girl image fool you; she is also a girl who reads Dickenson, Shakespeare, and can recite Plato.
Karr’s memoir is the sort of narrative I continually gravitate toward. It is another scrumptious story about dysfunction, discovery, transformation, and fulfillment. Because Sistahs, even in a world of a suicidal, obnoxious drunks; one can not only survive, but write a bestselling memoir afterwards! I find that quite cool.
by Laura Jensen Walker
Freddy is a bit over weight. Big Deal. As women, we can identify with her, feel empathy for her, and accept her exsactly as she is. We get it. We know what its like to be unconventional in a society driven by thinness, superficiality, and pretention. Dont we?
You see, Freddy is a little anxious about her curves. In fact, her lack of confidence is placing boundaries on her life; actually, controlling her destiny…but when Freddy begins to see herself as more than just a big-boned woman, she also begins to find her substance, depth, and inner Goddess. She becomes who she is supposed to be.
I loved Miss Invisible. I appreciate that Walker can take a character like Freddy, who in the beginning appears Invisible and Insignificant…and transforms her into an interesting, strong, capable, funny character.
This book is like one long hug after another. And in the end, we come to the realization that we are truly hugging ourselves.
–Walker’s book, “Reconstructing Natalie,” is another gem worth feeling good about.
Seasons of Sun and Rain
by Marjorie Dorner
My favorite books ALWAYS deal with Women’s Relationships. I can’t get enough. I adore novels such as “Talk before Sleep,” “Safe Harbor,” and “Housewives Eating Bon-Bons.” And now I add Marjorie Dorner’s novel, “Seasons of Sun & Rain” to my list of gems, as well.
Six women who went to college together in the 60s meet for a reunion they aptly name “Camp Men-O-Pause.” They gather collectively on the beautiful shoreline of Lake Superior to reminisce, laugh, eat fattening food, and get reacquainted with one another. It is a delicious story of the way friendship endures in spite of transitory time and distance. The “Men-O-Pause” girls talk about the past, present, and the future; they snicker like little girls about their cute twenty five-year-old waiter; they discuss old age, children, grandchildren, divorces, and husbands.
But it’s not all fun and games on the shoreline. Mickey, the most popular, beautiful friend from the college years has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease. She is in denial and will not speak of it. But best friends have the power to break through into the soul, into the heart. And when Mickey finally breaks open…this beautiful narrative opens her petals into full bloom.
The Pull of the Moon
by Elizabeth Berg
Is there an author you continually go back to; an author whose words are like savoring a hot fudge sundae that you desire to last forever? For me, that author is Elizabeth Berg. I find myself rereading her books as a kind of medicine for healing. She understands and loves women. She is like one of our wild girlfriends.
“The Pull of the Moon” is my all time favorite chocolate sundae by Berg. Nan is turning 50 years old and ponders where her life is leading. She’s not appreciated, accepted, or as sexy as she once was. She feels as if her world is irrelevant. She says this: “Well, most women are full to the brim, that’s all…We are, most of us, ready to explode.”
Nan decides to take a road trip to seek out her lost identify. She composes letters to her husband, Martin, along the way. She writes: “Dear Martin, I don’t mean this to be against you. I don’t mean any of it to be against you. Or even about you. I have felt for so long like I am drowning.”
“The Pull of the Moon” is for every woman regardless of her circumstances. Berg writes what we think, but would not carry out. As readers we can live vicariously through Nan’s adventures and experiences on the road. We can get away to re-discover ourselves. We can live inside somebody else’s stilettos for an hour or two. I can still taste the warm chocolate upon my tongue. Thank you for that, Ms. Berg.
By Sophia Kinsella…….The Undomestic Goddess” will satisfy the reader’s quench for their Chick Lit fulfillment. Sure, it may be a little predictable, but who cares. Kinsella’s books are so fun and fluffy and pleasing, that the obvious is transformed into a void filling phenomenon.
A high-powered lawyer, Samantha Sweeting, ends up working as a housekeeper after being fired wrongly from the best law firm in London. Samantha has no idea what she is doing–as she doesn’t cook or clean or know how to run a vacuum cleaner. This is what makes the story line funny–one mishap after another–but her employers, Trish and Eddie, find her fascinating.
Ok–now the interesting part. Samantha meets the gardener. I imagine he looks a bit like Bon Jovi–only with an English accent. (Sounds quite nice) A little flirting, a little sex in the raspberry patch, a little smearing of sticky red sweetness squashing beneath their bodies!
Samantha finds out more about herself being an undomestic goddess than being a high-powered lawyer any day of the week– For example, how to create from scratch, a lovely homemade loaf of bread.
No need to go on and on…
I love escaping inside Kinsella’s books–The fun, fluff, and chick-like amusement crack me up–even the foreseeable and unsurprising is something, which the reader can depend on and feel secure with.
Hey, after reading some heavy-duty material, The Undomestic Goddess is welcome medicine for the weary, tired, soul.
A Self Portrait in Letters by Anne Sexton: I adore reading other people’s letters. It’s a bit like catching one undressing…causing one to feel a little
naughty for gawking.
Sexton’s letters are revealing and raw. And Yes, she is a very naughty girl, but the reader will not be able to stop reading about her adulterous affairs, insight about being a woman in the fifties, and her delicious discussions with Sylvia Plath about suicide are rather amazing.
“How will you try to kill yourself next time,” she asks Plath over martinis.
I appreciate the misspelled words, punctuation errors, and the flow of consciousness. This adds to Sexton’s authenticity and approachability.
“But I’m only a housewife!” Anne declares.
But this housewife won the Pulitzer in Poetry.
Brilliant. Naughty. Outrageous. I want to undress her words over and over again!
This book had so many delightful elements interwoven into the story line that one must not skim through. One must remember: Brokeness can be…
Repaired- Reconstructed- Rebuit.
What is cracked can be mended and created all over again.
Ahhhh, and This is the essence of the book–
Whatever is dark can be lit up.
Whatver is broken can be fixed.
“The next time you break something, consider the action that might not immediately come to mind—say a prayer of thanks over what has been broken—Then give it a place of honor”——–Broken For You—–
“Fat Girl” is a disturbing book. One will be thrown forcefully into a world of fatism, racism, and hatism. The character states this: \”Food is the mother, the father, the warm hearted lover, the house built of red brick that not even the wolf can blow down.\” I identified with “Fat Girl,” not because of my weight, but because I understand what it feels like to be hungry, thirsty, and addicted to needing something, to wanting something deeply ; I know what if feels like when one desires to fill a void.Several of us tend to see ourselves through other people’s eyes, and their perception of us becomes our reality, our destiny. For example, when the narrator states: “Sometimes I forgot I was fat. I was happy. And then when I walked out into the world everybody reminded me about my appearence. I hated myself.” In a world of differences, when will we all realize that we are essentially the same? I mean, basically we are all searching for acceptance and love. This is what Moore is expressing here. Read it. You may experience the world in a new way.
East of Eden
by John Steinbeck
~~There is a reason only select books are meant to be called “Classics.” And after reading “East of Eden,” I finally understand what this word truly means.
Steinbeck is a master storyteller; his words and sentences are still absorbing inside my mind and body a week later. “East of Eden” follows three generations of families and the choices they decide to make, which affect everybody thereafter.
I delight in Steinbeck’s style and technique; the way he inserts universal messages in his pages for his readers to ponder and swish inside their mouths; his deep directives about religion, racism, sexism, and generational imperfection.
~~Since my sister’s murder in May I’ve received several phone calls, emails, and comforting letters from the most unexpected people. I find it absolutely astounding women I’ve never met face to face, have been consoling me with reflective words, cyber hugs, breathtaking poetry, and surprising phone calls.
One such woman is author, Beryl Singleton Bissell. For one thing, I was stunned that she actually read my blogs to begin with.
Here’s what she wrote to me on June 28th:
I just posted a comment on your blog post. I am writing personally to remind you that I am here for you and not that far away that we couldn’t meet her or in Duluth should you wish. Loss like yours needs a listening, compassionate, understanding heart. I hope you have many such listening, loving hearts to help hold and perhaps ease your sorrow. My phone number is —-.
Love, Beryl Singleton Bissell”
My heart leapt after reading Beryl’s email. I knew immediately that I wanted to meet with her, talk with her, and ask her one question in particular: “When your 24-year old daughter, Francesca, was murdered, how did you survive? How did you go on LIVING?”
Our book club had already read her memoir, “The Scent of God: A Memoir,” which was about her cloistered life as a nun in Italy, her desire to become a Saint, and her passionate love affair with the beloved, beautiful priest, Padre Vittorio.
I knew this woman. And I already loved her.
I arrived at Beryl’s home on the North-Shore about noon on July 23rd. She opened the door with a radiant, angelic smile. We hugged for a long time. She led me into her cozy kitchen where she was preparing our lunch: grilled salmon, string beans, small red tomatoes, warm (was is cardamom bread?) and homemade ice tea.
O’, sometimes the simple things in life are like a kind of healing.
We ate our lunch outside upon her lovely deck overlooking Lake Superior. The soft waves and Beryl’s voice gently massaged my weary soul. We talked about writing, her daughter, Francesca, my sister, Kay, life, God. We discussed “centering prayer,” a practice Beryl studied with the Benedictine nuns.
“I’ve found my home in this kind of prayer,” she said.
We walked around her magnificent grounds and swung on her massive, magical swing. She guided me to Francesca’s grave site, which was blanketed with shells, flowers, love, love, love.
“Will you bring me to your writing studio,” I asked.
And there we sat inside her quaint little studio. Me, asking a million questions about the “writing life.” Me, skimming my fingers over volumes of books, her wooden desk, her computer, her manuscripts. Me, flabbergasted that the great Ann Patchett believed in her book enough that she sent Beryl’s query letter to her own agent.
For a while, life seemed to come back to me in tiny fragments.
My mother baked Beryl a rhubarb cake, so we savored a slice before I left with coffee. We talked more about moving forward, living our lives without our Francesca, our Kay, our soul mates, our loves, our loves.
The loss. The void. The darkness.
When I think of Beryl, I remember her voice: calming, comforting, caring… like warm waves pressing against my ears, like a prayer, like pieces of pleasure slowly, slowly returning.
~~~A Note to Beryl: Your famous Salmon Salad should be on the menu at “The Angry Trout.” Also, please kiss Candy for me. (Sweet-Sweet Beryl)