Monday, October 24, 2005

Chick Book Review x2

I've been woefully slack at doing any sort of book reviews here, as was part of my original plan for my blog, despite continued and voracious reading as is my norm. After tearing through the deliciously guilty pleasure that is Harry Potter (all 6 books in what HAS to be record time), I've read quite a few other novels. Most I won't discuss for whatever reasons (like the silly Clive Cussler that Mr. Chick finished and I picked up because I had no other reading material in the house and was desperate. Or Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin because it was just TOO light and fluffy and completely without substance, although I did enjoy reading it). Instead, I'll do a quick review of Light on Snow by Anita Shreve, and I Don't Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson. One was read as part of my Book Group, the other wasn't.

I Don't Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson:

This book was a fast and easy read. It's very much like Bridget Jones' Diary. Fully of funny quips and one-liners, which helps to make it entertaining and light. It's about Kate Reddy, a working mother of two. She has this high-powered job and struggles to keep it all together both at work and at home. Inevitably, she's unable to please all the people all the time and feels tremendous guilt about one thing or another. There is a powerful undercurrent that all moms can relate to when reading this book: the sense that no matter what we do we feel like we're not doing enough for our kids. Kate attempts to build an image of being just as present and capable of doing the same stuff as a stay at home mom would (aka "The Muffia"), while also striving to climb the corporate ladder. She's stressed, guilt-ridden, cajoling, and very, very funny. She wants more time with her kids whenever she's away from them, but when she's with them for a weekend she wants to escape them. Sound familiar? Amidst the humor there are real nuggets of truth that any mom, working or SAHM, can relate to:

"Children are the proof we've been here, they're where we go to when we die. They're the best thing and the most impossible thing, but there's nothing else. You have to believe me. Life is a riddle and they are the answer. If there's any answer, it has to be them."

"If I'm ever with Emily and Ben properly, for a few days and nights, I'm always struck by how shockingly alive they are. They're not the shyly smiling girl and boy in the picture...I keep in my wallet. Their need for me is like the need for water or light; it has a devastating simplicity to it. It doesn't fit any of the theories about what women are supposed to do with their lives: theories written in books by women who never had children, or had children but broght them up as I mostly bring up mine - by Remote Access. Children change your heart; they never wrote that in the books."

Even though I, personally, am not a working mother and have chosen to stay home with my kids, I was bothered by the underlying message that runs throughout this book that the real answer for Kate is to quit her job and stay home. That's the only way she'll be happy. I disagree - I believe there exists a happy medium. Does it have to be all or nothing? It was never presented as an option in this book that Kate could cut back her hours in any way. Negotiate a part-time arrangement for a few years. No, it was work your ass off and be gone from home far too much, or quit completely and be home all the time. That black or white thinking made me uncomfortable and the book lost some points for that. But despite that I found this book funny and real. I was able to relate to many of Kate's struggles with her kids ("Any [working] mother who says she doesn't bribe her kids can add LIAR to her resume."). I appreciated the sharp intellect that the author demonstrates with her wit. There are some very sad aspects to the story, but that makes it more real. This book has humor! This book has tears! There is revenge! And guilt! Temptation! And even more laughter all mixed in. It's short and fast and I think you'll enjoy reading it. It makes you think about the very basic concept of balance in a mothers life.

Light On Snow, by Anita Shreve:

I just finished reading this book and enjoyed it. It's a far-cry from "I Don't Know How She Does It" - there aren't remotely any similarities between the two. It's a very engaging book written from the perspective of Nicky, a 12-year old girl, who lives in a small, remote New Hampshire town with her father. One day while out snowshoeing, Nicky and her father find a newborn baby abandoned in the snow. The baby's survival is only possible due to the random chance that led Nicky and her dad across it's path. This sparks a lot of questions in Nicky about life and how hers is the way it is. There was an enormous tragedy in her life that changed everything (I won't say what). Nicky gets some very real glimpses into the adult world and the grey reality of tough choices and circumstances. It's a very emotional novel that is mirrored by the rich descriptions of the surrounding landscape. Hard, cold winter matches hard, cold choices and people. I found it deeply engrossing and yet disturbing. I couldn't help but dwell on the fact that a baby was left to die in the snow. I kept picturing my own kids as newborns and what I felt when I was pregnant with them and during their births. How could someone DO that?? That overshadowed my thoughts as I read this book, but that lone fact is also central to the story. Very poignant.

I'm currently reading "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey. It's Oprah's current book club book. It's very, very intense and disturbing in a lot of ways, yet compelling. It's about drug addiction and rehab. It's written like a stream of consciousness and it's dense. But it grabs you and doesn't let go - at least so far. I can't put it down. I'm reading it all the time - while I eat breakfast, in the hottub, during naps. Addiction and the ugliness that surrounds it is not a topic I'm personally familiar with, but this book, an auto-biographical story, has hooked me. I keep turning the book over to look at the picture of the author on the back cover when I read something particularly disturbing. How did he endure that? Why? I mean, this guy has to go through a dual root canal surgery on his two front teeth WITHOUT PAIN MEDS of any sort. He does it cold. When you're in treatment, you don't get any drugs. Not even for surgery. Brutal. His description of that ordeal is hard to read, very detailed, and uncomfortable, to say the least. He's on death's door and he's only 23. The drug world is such a far cry from my own existance. This guy had a normal family. An older brother, 2 parents who are still together, and was not abused or molested. It could be my family. And yet. And yet he started drinking when he was 10 and doing drugs by 13. Blacking out consistently by 15. Vomiting daily during high school from the drugs. He's angry. Very, very angry. And hurt. And broken. He describes himself as broken. It's a heart-breaking tale and I'm only halfway through. I'll try to remember to give a full report after I'm done. I have a feeling this story is going to stay with me for awhile.

I hope you all find time to read a little something today. I read everyday and can't imagine not having a book or two going at all times. Take your kids to the library and get a new book for everyone!

Loved, loved, LOVED, A Million Little Pieces. I am interested in your take on the second half of the book.

Keep us posted!
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