Heartburn

It is freezing here. We got nailed with snow the past few days, and the warmest weather we have had in about a week has been 12 degrees. So, tonight I curled up on the couch and finished Heartburn by Nora Ephron.

This book is about Rachel, a woman who has learned that her husband is having an affair. To make matters more complicated, they have a very young son, and Rachel is seven months pregnant with baby #2. Rachel writes cookbooks, and the book, which is a letter written by her, is littered with the occasional recipe. Rachel is hilarious. Despite the sad events in her life, she drops in these laugh-out-loud moments.

This book pulled in two directions for me. First, it has the gossipy, Real Housewives vibe happening. Rachel gives you the gossip on each of the characters she introduces, and she starts some juicy rumors about the woman whom her husband has been sleeping with. In the other direction is Rachel reflecting on how she got to this point, and what she’s going to do from here. She really has to assess what will make her happy and how she can move forward from this point.

This book read quickly, was funny, and Rachel had a great voice. I really enjoyed this and may have to pick up another Ephron in my future.

The Night Circus

I took a one book break from my books-to-read-in-your-20s list to read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. A friend has been telling me to read it for over a year, and she loaned it to me over the holidays. I cannot be more thankful!

It has been a long time since I devoured a book like I did with The Night Circus. It was so nice to sit down and read 100 pages at a time without realizing. It was so easy to get lost in Morgenstern’s world. If you’ve read any posts of mine before, you know that I love books that change perspective, and this book delivered in this area perfectly.

I don’t have some deep literary interpretations of this book – I can just say it was a lovely read with brilliant imagery inside a fantastical world. I did not expect to be drawn in so intensely. Don’t let the length of this book be intimidating because it was one of the quickest reads I’ve had in my hands in a very long time. If you’re one of the few people out there who has not read this book, bump it up to the top of your TBR!

The Moviegoer

It’s my final day off before I go back to work, so I took some time to finish The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. As with many of the books I have picked up in my books-to-read-in-your-20s challenge, I knew nothing about The Moviegoer or Walker Percy. This book actually won the National Book Award for Fiction.

This book follows a 29-year-old stockbroker named Binx who is living in New Orleans. He is searching for his place in the world, and he tells the reader about that search and how frustrating it is. Other central characters in this novel include Binx’s aunt and cousin, whom he is fond of and “close” to. As close as he can get without yet knowing his own place in the world, at least. Kate, Binx’s cousin, is severely depressed, and Binx is often asked to intervene and try to help pull her out of her episodes.

Binx is very particular and regimented. When describing himself he talks about how organized his wallet is, how he enjoys being a good citizen, and how his armpits never stink. He has a habit of dating his secretaries, and seems to hold most of his relationships at a distance. He loves attending movies, good or bad, and has particular theater employees whom he has developed comradeship with.

I’m 29, so I understand the familial pressures that Binx feels (people asking what you’re doing with your life, asking why you aren’t married, etc.), and it was interesting to see the differences in the way Binx and I live our lives. Ultimately, as Binx turns 30 there are pieces of his life that have come together and other pieces he still isn’t sure of. As 30 continues to loom closer for me, it’s a good reminder that I do not have to have everything aligned – I’ll always be seeking where I fit into the world in some facet.

Giovanni’s Room

Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a safe and lovely holiday, surrounded by family, friends, and food. I spent my NYE at home with my best friend and our dogs. We ate chili, played Skip-Bo, and watched all of the gossipy end-of-the-year shows. I was in bed by 12:07. It was wonderful.

I have finished my first book of 2017! I’m off to a good start. My first book of the year is Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. I am a fan of the Americans in Paris trying to figure out their lives concept, so this book really worked for me.

David is an American who has been living in Paris for some time. He is almost 30, and is wavering about his relationship with his girlfriend, Hella. He is also trying to sort out his sexuality as he starts a relationship with Giovanni, an Italian bartender. The book walks through David’s dilemma as he tries to figure himself out. You see the intensity of this relationship and how complicated it becomes as David reflects on the circumstances.

Baldwin does an excellent job of keeping the pages turning because he drops little clues through the book that something significant is coming (no spoilers!), and you have to keep reading to figure out where things really went wrong. This book is a quick, intense read, and I would highly recommend it!

Happy reading in 2017!

 

 

Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories

I am really enjoying vacation. I have not been to work in one week, and have six days until I have to be back, which is completely and totally lovely. I have not done as much reading as I should have, but I have done plenty of relaxing and spending time with family.

christmas-haul-2016
My Christmas 2016 Book Haul

This afternoon I finished a collection of short stories by Alifa Rifaat, Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories. It’s relatively short, but took me a while to get through due to traveling, preparing for the holiday, and wrapping things up for 2016. Alifa Rifaat was an Eqyptian writer. The stories in this book focus on what everyday life looked like in Rifaat’s Egypt. Her writing focuses on familial relationships, and the routines of everyday life, including the five daily prayers. Rifaat describes a society that is male-dominated, but her writing reveals some flaws in such a culture.

My favorite story in this collection is Badriyya and Her Husband. This story is about a young woman who lives with her mother. Her mother does not approve of Badriyya’s husband, a man who has just been released from jail for stealing. He comes back, but their problems do not end just because he has come home. All of Rifaat’s stories have a punch in their final line, but the final line of this story broke my heart in addition to punching me in the gut. It’s really lovely writing/translation.

remi-reading
Remi enjoyed Rifaat, as well.

I am the only person who has ever checked this book out from the library at the university where I work! There are only 56 reviews of it on Goodreads, so I am assuming it is not a widely known book. I encourage you to pick it up!

I only read 18 books this year. Hopefully I can read one or two more before the new year, as my goal was 55 books! Oops. Did anyone else fail miserably with their reading goal this year?

 

Bastard out of Carolina

I had a wonderful Sunday evening. I laid on the couch finishing Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, drinking a beer and snuggling with the cats in the glow of the Christmas Tree! It was lovely to hide away from the winter weather (it was -9 when I woke up this morning).

I knew nothing of this book when I started it – I actually prefer opening a book with no expectations. Allison did an excellent job of drawing me into this poor Southern family. The main character, Bone, is a young girl who narrates this story about her childhood. She focuses on her family – her mother, stepfather, and a parade of aunts and uncles whom she loves deeply. Bone’s stepfather loses his jobs often, causing them to move routinely. However, through all of the moving and other troubles Bone runs into, her extended family remains constant. She knows her uncles will get drunk and get arrested, she knows her aunts will continue to take care of each other. Bone is drawn into these situations as she grows older and closer to adulthood.

I don’t think that I can write much more without including spoilers. I will say that this is one of my favorite books of 2016, and I recommend you go pick it up.

Song of Solomon

One of the best parts about doing my books-to-read-in-your-20s challenge is that I have finally been able to read things that I have always intended to read, but have not had a chance to pick up. Song of Solomon is one of those books! The only other Morrison I have read is The Bluest Eye, which I had a difficult time with. I think that is why it has taken me so long to pick up another Morrison – I was worried that I would not like it or that it would not live up to my expectations. However, Song of Solomon delivered. Needless to say, the world has been right about Morrison, and I am now caught up. It’s wonderful to read something that was published in the 70s and is still relevant.

Even though I finished this book last weekend, I’m still processing. Milkman, the central character grows up on the edge of everything – his father is a successful black man who owns rental properties, and his aunt’s family is extremely poor and are social outcasts of sorts. He is pulled into both worlds, and has to try to find where he fits and how. Milkman winds up on a journey that takes him across the country, giving the reader insight into race issues from the 30s to the 70s that cause you to think about how things are now. I had several “oh my god how is this still happening” moments.

I may come back to edit this entry later as I think and process more. I can’t wait to read more Morrison soon!