March Book Review: Beach Music

I know I completely flaked on you on Friday… my apologies!  I was entranced by this tiny ponytail situation.  IMG_2323

It was Friday, and it was the last “writing” day of the month, so I intended to do Book Review instead of Home Tour.  No harm, no foul right?

For March, and now leading into springtime in April, Beach Music by Pat Conroy is coincidentally a great beach read.  Or an anywhere read for that matter.  The book’s main character is Jack McCall, and he is wrecked and running following the suicide of his wife.  Set in the broken down remnants of what was once the great Old South, this is a story about redemption and resiliency, family and healing.  Laden with grief, desperately seeking peace, from a deep family history of betrayal and pain: Jack runs.  He moves his young daughter to the winding streets of Rome in an attempt to rewrite her experience in this life.  The story reaches across three generations and builds a terribly raw and heart-wrenching landscape of Jack’s family, and the the family of his wife.

What is so incredible about Pat Conroy’s writing is his ability to recreate experiences and bring your heart into the moment to love and come to know his characters.  Jack is quick and witty, but unbearably vulnerable and damaged.  His powerful but gentle nature is realized in the flashbacks from his childhood, in the history built into his daughter’s bloodline.  What draws me to characters like this is in their ability to turn inward, and how perfectly particular an author can be in their construction of their experiences, their desires, and their passions.  Conroy builds a ridiculously moving explanation of a family’s condition and what has brought them to this moment: how they’ve survived, and how they are still able to love one another.  The landscapes and locations will take you there in your mind, and not often does an author so beautifully walk you from one continent to another.  You will taste Jack’s cooking, feel the sand of South Carolina shores beneath your feet, walk the ancient streets of Rome, and your heart will break into a thousand pieces at his beautifully imperfect heart.

Let me know if you decide to read Beach Music and how you feel about it once you’re done!

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February Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

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For this month’s book review, I had to pick my favorite.  One of my favorites, fine.  I have too many favorites.  This one I’ve read four times, and now that I pulled it off the shelf for reference, I’m probably going to read it again.  I have recommended this book to almost anyone who has asked me what they should read, accompanied by this disclaimer: you have to go with it.  Some have started it and can’t get into it.  I’ve had some bad reviews.  Can’t please everybody, folks.  And if you saw the movie, just poof that experience right out of your memory because that was an embarrassment to Audrey Niffenegger and I can’t believe she allowed it.  Even though not everyone loves it as much as I; there have been a few, who like me, clutch their chest and say, “the end…, oh my…”  and who rank Henry and Claire up at the top of their heartbreaking love story list, like me.

Henry time travels, and while that might sound a little science fiction-y on its face, it doesn’t present that way.  He can’t control when he leaves or where he goes, and he can’t take anything or anyone with him.  It is explained as a genetic disorder that causes him to randomly skip time.  Niffenegger wrote this book in a very untraditional fashion, in that her time line has been chopped up and realigned out of order.  Sometimes flashing back, sometimes flashing forward.  It is written in first person, from the perspective of both Henry, and Claire.  And I love these characters.  Henry is at once, desperate and determined, careful and risky.  He is on the verge of becoming wrecked all the time.  Claire presents a circular argument in my head about free will and having a pre-determined fate.  You see, Henry meets Claire completely out of sequence in life.  She meets him when she is a tiny girl, in a sun-drenched clearing near her family’s estate.  Did she ever have a choice in loving him?  Henry loves Claire in the present, but he also gets to watch her grow up.  On the reverse, she has loved Henry her whole life.  I think about my husband as a little boy, and how he must have always smelled like fresh air and sunshine, and that amazing combination of sweat and dirt, like little boys should.  Skinned knees, dirty hands, curly blonde hair, and the most beautiful laugh I have ever heard, coming from the mouth of a little boy.  I would love to see how the man I know and love grew out of the Kentucky earth.  Henry got to see Claire like that, and that is so priceless to me.

I love this book because it’s outside the “Nicholas-Sparks-love-story-box.”  I like him too, ok, just not always.  I love this book because Henry gets used up by the universe, but he remains always funny, incredibly passionate, and simultaneously terrified.  He is vulnerable and afraid and completely lovable.  Claire is a fighter and she’s loyal, and she loves Henry despite the immensely difficult situations they constantly face.  The Time Traveler’s Wife is full of hilarious scenes, some questionable ones (disclaimer: sex), some awkward ones (disclaimer: sex again), but some ridiculously human ones that really pull at me.  And one that left me sobbing in pieces.  Which I really appreciate.  I need to be moved.  If you do too, just go with it.  And don’t try to figure out the timeline as you’re reading it.

If you decide to read it, please let me know!  I hope you will love it as much as I do.

January Book Review: Redeeming Love

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Remember when we sent our packets in for college applications and they wanted to see how well-rounded we were?  I came across boxes of high school memorabilia a few months ago when my parents moved out of the house I grew up in.  What a bittersweet day that was.  It’s all this excitement/angst/hurt/happiness/love/anticipation: all remembered at once.  I like to remember where I came from.  And I like to honor all the parts of my mind and my spirit and this ferocity I feel when I talk about something that touches me deeply.  I want to stay well-rounded, as they say.  While I love my daughter to infinity (Seriously, infinity.  I lose my heart to her toothy grin every single day), I also want to be the truest form of myself, for me.  I want to put words together that make people think, words that matter.  How else are we supposed to use language?  I mean, sometimes it’s completely appropriate to say shit that needs to be said (Mom).  But is has to be well placed and effective, which makes it authentic.  Not just there because you can’t properly express yourself otherwise.  But sometimes four letters are all that will do, sorry Jesus.  (No sacrilege).

There are rare moments when a story comes together that is so deeply rooted in who we are, that we literally hurt our own chances at being the best version of ourselves if we ignore it.  Enter: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.  Please read this book.  This story is set in the “Wild West.”  Yep, just like the one pictured in your head.  It’s the gold rush and it’s harsh and cut throat, and Angel feeds on skepticism and hate.  She meets a man that changes everything and teaches her what unconditional love really means.  Unconditional.  I think we throw that word around like it’s easy, but it’s not.  Unconditional love.  I will love you, unconditionally.  I probably still don’t know what that really means.  What an incredibly selfless choice to make in this life.  Because all my experience leads me to believe that loving someone comes down to a choice.  What moves me so much about this story is that Michael seeks Angel over and over and over again.  She fights against it with all she has, just downright destroying herself.  But she is one of The Salvaged.  There is beauty in redemption.  And oh how freeing that is.

True to myself, I must be, so I’ll close each month with a recommendation and review of a book that I have read, and loved.  No critic am I, but if you want to be moved, let me lead you to water, as they say.