Joan Didon’s husband died on December 30, 2003. He had a massive heart attack. 10 months later, she began to write about the experience.
The Year of Magical Thinking is a portrait of grief. I think what really struck me was that she was unable to just sit and wallow in her grief. She had to pick up and be strong for the people around her. On the night her husband died, they had just returned from visiting their daughter who was in a medically induced coma. They were unsure if she was going to live. In a strange twist of fate, her husband was in fact the person who did not live.
It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to have your partner of over 30 years pass away suddenly and also have your only child be in such a precarious medical condition. Throughout the book, she makes it clear that he was a partner in every way to her for many years. The sudden loss of this support system must have been such a difficult thing to experience.
It is interesting because she makes it clear that to her, his death was sudden and unexpected but he seemed to foreshadow his own death. From Didon’s retelling of her conversations with her husband in his last years of life, he seemed to believe he was living on borrowed time. It was almost as if he knew he would be leaving her at a difficult period in her life.
This was the first book I’ve read by Joan Didon. I didn’t know much about her or her husband other than Claire Messud recommended reading her books. I look forward to reading more of her works and also exploring her late husbands various works.
I spent the spring wishing for summer to arrive and now I have no idea where it went. July was a complete whirlwind.
July was the month from travel. I spent a week on the beach, a couple of days in D.C. and then a week in Germany for a wedding. Lots of travel means lots of time for reading all of the books. This month’s books were an eclectic group. Two of the books had been sitting on the my shelf for a few months. Two were books I picked up on vacation at Elements. One was an impulse buy in response to a celebrity death. All of them receive the Literary Lady with Libations stamp of “You Should Read This.”
The books I completed in July:
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Red Clocks – Lena Zumas
White Houses by Amy Bloom
I’m assuming I’ll have a bigger list for August. I’m currently vacillating between four books. Four very different books. I’m teetering on finishing all of them.
What did everyone else read in July? What was your favorite read?
I am officially late the party in regards to praising Anthony Bourdain’s writing. I’m disappointed that it was only in his death that I came to know his writing.
Upon the announcement of his death, my coworker circulated his article “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” to our office. Up to that point, I had never read any of this writings or watched any of his shows. (If you haven’t read the article, read it here.) His book, Kitchen Confidential, is an expansion of the article. His book is a mix of memoir and restaurant expose. He would probably cringe at the expose part, because as he points out throughout the book, he is simply stating the truth. He is giving his readers an actual, first hand account of what it was like to work in various kitchens through 1970s-1990s.
His stories are hilarious. He is unafraid to poke fun at himself or his contemporaries. After I started the book, I began to watch episodes of his show No Reservations. I highly recommend this because after watching two or three episodes, I began to read the book and would hear his voice as I read it. His diction and syntax are so unique when he speaks and he wrote in the same way he speaks.
If you like to cook, fancy yourself a chef or just love food, then you need to read Kitchen Confidential.
Dr. Anna Fox is a child psychologist who is suffering from severe agoraphobia. Anna spends her day drinking heavily, tossing back medications and watching black and white films. Her husband and daughter have left her. She spends almost all of her time isolated and alone. Her days are punctuated by visits from her psychiatrist and physical therapist. She watches her neighbors, following their lives through her window.
Anna witnesses a murder and finds herself engaged with the outside world for the first time in almost a year. However, no one believes what she says and she’s not even sure she believes herself. Could she have imagined what she saw? She has spent the last 10 months slamming Merlot with high powered medications that induce hallucinations while watching film noir. Even Anna recognizes her lack of credibility in the eyes of the outside world and has her doubts.
It is a book that you do not want to put down once you start reading. With every revelation, the reader is drawn further into Anna’s world. The Woman in the Window is a thriller that does not disappoint.
I have always been a fan girl of Greek and Roman Mythology. I love the story of the Gods and how they would influence the lives of humans.
Madeline Miller tells the untold story of Circe. Circe was banished by her father’s ally, Zeus, to spend her immortal life in exile on the island of Aiaia after she dares to show her true power. Circe is known in Greek mythology for turning men into pigs and being one of the many lovers Odysseus took on his journey home. However, Miller gives life to Circe and a depth to who she was as never told before. Circe is immortal. A daughter of a Titan but she is different than her peers. She longs for companionship and has a fascination for humans. She cannot help but return to them, even when she is injured by them time and time again.
Circe is our narrator and guides the reader through her life and provides more fleshed out stories to the traditional myths. The female narrator is a refreshing change in this re-telling of the Greek myth. If you love mythology, you will love this story.
Anxiety induced insomnia is bad but having The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin to keep me company all night was bright spot on an otherwise miserable evening.
On a lark the four Gold children go to meet a fortune teller who tells them the day that they will die. The novel follows the lives of Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon after they have been given their death date. Benjamin does a great job weaving the stories of the four siblings together in a cohesive and authentic way. Her writing provoked so many questions in my own mind. What would I do? Would I believe something like this?
The story made me think of the Death Clock. When I was in middle school, the Death Clock was a craze for awhile. I remember entering my birthday and gender and then being horrified when an answer was unceremoniously spit out. How did it know?! I didn’t even tell it that much information. I was 11 or 12 when I had my first brush with the Death Clock and it haunted me for months.
At it’s heart, the novel focuses on the role of fate and our decisions. Are the Gold children destined to die as predicted by the gypsy? Or did their choices, in reaction to the prediction, lead them in a direction they otherwise would not have gone? Chloe Benjamin’s novel creates an interesting space for the reader to reflect on their own ideas about fate and whether the choices we make are really are own or predetermined in the stars.
Holy Schnikes! I did not see that coming.
I had seen a lot of press when Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff was first released last year. I followed along and added her to my #TBR list but never made any moves on it. She is by no means a new writer. This was her third novel.
However, the description of the novel was always lackluster to me. A story following a couple? Meh. I’ll read it, when I read it.
But this was so much more than that. It was a deep dive into a relationship from each person’s perspective. It was a study of how our younger lives shape our later lives. It was a story about the stories we choose to tell ourselves and believe about ourselves rather than relying on the truth.
The novel was constructed in a unique way. It follows Lotto throughout his life. Then it starts over following his wife Mathilde. The reader was reading the same story but vastly different perspectives and motives for behavior. It felt like I was reading two very different books but each book would not be complete without the counterpart.
I cannot wait to read her new short story collection Florida. It was released this month and it is the Odyssey Bookshop’s First Editions Book Club’s July selection. Very excited to get my hands on it and dive into it.
I’m reviewing my Goodreads notes on this book, and I have absolutely not idea how it ended up on my list. I’m assuming it was from one of the lists I saw in the last couple of months about upcoming books.
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobhan Rao arrived from the library with about five other books. For once, I asked for the printed receipt and realized that Girls Burn Brighter was a 7 day loan. I rolled my eyes and crumbled up the receipt and tossed it into the trash as I exited the library.
I am perilously close to being unable to borrow more library books due to unpaid library fines. However, in my defense, 7 days and 14 day loans are the culprits! And it’s very difficult to return a book you are halfway through when you KNOW there is a waiting list for the book(which is the reason you are unable to renew it). What is a girl to do?
Moving on, Girls Burn Brighter arrived in a cache of books from the library. I was heading home to my parents house for the holiday weekend and brought a few books with me. I opted to pick up Girls Burn Brighter because of the looming deadline.
This books is many things but the strongest impression that was left on me was the examination of the power of female friendship and the quiet power of women. Poornima and Savitha both had, what can only be described, as a quiet power within themselves.
This book was set in 2001/2002 and I am absolutely horrified to have confirmed that this story is not an outlandish work of fiction. The stories of Poornima and Savitha are not uncommon or unlikely to have happened. The hunger, the poverty, and the violence are all typical and expected experiences for Indian women.
Who else has read this book? I have been talking about this book non stop in the hopes of finding someone to discuss it with. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this book.
Happy Reading and Drinking!
I decided to read I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid because it was pitched to be in the same category of Eileen. On the inside flap, it said Reid’s debut novel was reminiscent of We Need To Talk About Kevin. I assumed that this story was simply a story of violence against women.
When I first finished the book, I didn’t know what to think about it. Granted it was the middle of the night and I went from being creeped out to confused. However, I’ve had a couple of days to digest the book and I will say I’m impressed. The story is interesting and the structure of the novel is unique.
Reid does a great job of building fear and anxiety in the reader. What I find so fascinating is that he builds it incrementally in a genuine, believable way. In horror/thrillers, some authors full into the trap of writing shocking scenes or situations just to shock the reader rather than progress the plot line.
In I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the reader slowly feels more upset and anxious without being able to put a finger on what is causing the feelings. I would feel my chest tighten. I was reading this book before bed and every time I would stop to go to bed my mind was spinning with possibilities about what was going on. In the final pages of the novel, you are surprised and flipping back and forth to try and find a sign you missed earlier in the novel.
Great debut. I am interested to see what else Iain Reid has for us in that head of his.
TRYING TO BE BETTER. But it would appear I failed for another month seeing as its April 23rd. I’m currently on the road for my full time (“real job”) and have found myself with an extraordinary amount of alone time in hotel rooms over the last few days.
The books I read in March were:
1) Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
2)There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
3) Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
4) Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel
5)Girls Burn Brighter by Shobhan Rao
Fates and Furies knocked my socks off. I only moved it up on my #TBR list because she has another book coming out that has a lot of buzz surrounding it.
I hate to do this but I’m doing it. Sisterland was so incredibly disappointing. Which I think speaks more to me than Sittenfeld as a writer. I have high hopes and then am always disappointed by her stories. I should just stop reading her. The stories she tells don’t engage me in they way I expect to be engaged. (I take that back, I loved American Wife. However, I think that it set the bar too high for any of her other novels to follow up and be satisfying.)
I read Girls Burn Brighter in one day. Which says two things: 1) it was a great story 2)I was at my parents house for Easter break and had nothing to do. It was an eye opening book and am in the midst of doing a deep dive into the background information on the book.
Happy Reading and Drinking!