How is it December already?! The past few weeks have just flown by. With the packing up of the old and in with the new (new first home and new job), my brain has been too dead at the end of the day to actually write about the books I’m reading. But now that my library room is all set up, I’m finding my feet in my new workplace, and I’ve started heading to the gym again, I feel the itch to share with all of you what I’ve been reading and dish out what I think of these books. First off, I just want to share a couple of pictures of my beloved reading room.
Now to the books! They have been my saving sanity with all the new changes over the past few weeks especially with the new longer bus commute to work. So, here are the books that have kept my appetite satiated.
“The Day the Falls Stood Still” by Cathy Marie Buchanan
I enjoyed Buchanan’s “The Painted Girls” so I was excited to jump into this novel since it takes my place in the region I grew up in…Niagara. Buchanan weaves together Canadian Niagara history and the story of Bess during the early 1900s. And through both of these tales, the Falls looms as a character all its own. This same Falls still draws tourists from around the world, and Buchanan uses the mystique and myths of the Falls to draw the reader in. The relationship between Bess and Tom is beautiful, sexual, and messy; and the Falls adds further depth to their storylines. I loved following Bess’s life and watching her evolve from a selfish, impetuous teenager into a capable woman motivated by her own persistence, her boys, and her love for Tom. The ending of this story is heartbreaking, which at first made me disappointed with the book. But upon further reflection, I realized that it is a fitting ending to a book defined by the Niagara Falls: bewitchingly calm and beautiful at times yet fiercely powerful and deadly surprising underneath. This was an enjoyable read for sure.
4/5 bacon strips
When I heard back in the summer that Ann-Marie MacDonald was coming out with her new book (it has been almost 10 years since her last book), I knew this was going to be on my must-purchase list. The perspective is from Mary Rose MacKinnon as she cares for her two small children while her partner is away on business. As I read on, I realized that Mister (as she is nicknamed) is not just experiencing difficulties as a mom of youngsters, but is falling into some serious mental habits including lashing out in rage at 2-year old Maggie. As we get snapshots of Mister’s childhood, we see she is repeating the patterns of depression, disconnect, and possible child abuse that she experienced with her mother. I found the small paragraphs told from the point of view of Mister’s mother an apt description of the post-partum depression and motherhood anxiety that many women face but try to hide. I think this book does an excellent job of portraying how difficult motherhood is, and brings up the necessity for women to talk to each other about their struggles and recognize when to seek help. I did find the book quite depressing and got bored as Mister’s seemed to cycle through these crazy thoughts without much deviation or moving forward. It was still a good read and I think it could start some great conversations between mothers.
3.5/5 bacon strips
“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! Strayed lays her story bare and reveals all the inner workings of her mind as she struggles through the loss of her mother, the end of her marriage, and the journey along the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to find who she is now. You feel the pain of her body, the fear of walking in the wilderness alone, the relief found in the kindness of strangers and the companionship of fellow hikers, and the survival instinct to carry on even in the toughest circumstances. She describes emotions that any human can relate to even if the experience she goes through is foreign to us. I was mesmerized by the story and felt the urge to read on because I needed to find out what was going to happen next. The only downside of the book was that the writing wasn’t top quality. Some of the wording made me cringe and it seemed like the author was trying too hard to be a “writer”. I also felt that the book missed the self-awareness that is an important part of a memoir and would have endeared us to Cheryl a bit more. For example, I was confused by the one day sexual fling near the end of her trip. It seemed like she had grown beyond casual one-night stands that seemed to define her downward slide in life after her mother’s death. Or perhaps I was picturing Cheryl different than she sees herself, and she saw this as some healing moment. It would have helped for her to reflect more on how that incident played into her journey if that was the case. All the same, this was still an inspiring story and I would recommend it.
4/5 bacon strips
“A Student of Weather” by Elizabeth Hay
Elizabeth Hay is one of my favourite authors and this is the only book of hers that I hadn’t read. The novel is mostly about Norma Joyce and her relationship with Maurice. Her sister, Lucinda, also gets to tell portions of the book which allows us to see the bias of Norma Joyce’s perspective and the reasons behind Lucinda’s actions. Unfortunately, this first novel reads like an author finding her feet. There are a few of the word pictures that I love Hay for: “By the middle of March, it was bright at seven in the morning, the light warmer, less metallic than in February, almost petalled, the way it softened the branches of the apple trees rather than striking against them.” (p.317) Hay’s beautiful way of describing nature that is present in all of her books is in this first novel as well, but in a way that often overwhelms with words and drags down the story being told. I lost interest in the characters at some points and found myself skipping paragraphs to try to get to the next point in the story. I was also often confused with which “she” (Norma Joyce or Lucinda) the story was referring to as the antecedent could be either sister. Either this was a botched editing job or an unwise author choice. I would not read this book again, but I’m still a big fan of Hay’s work and still look forward to reading more of her works in the future. (For a better example of Hay’s literary excellence, pick up “Garbo Laughs” or “Late Nights on Air”.)
1.5/5 bacon strips