“Verlie I Say Unto You”

Adams, Alice. “Verlie I Say Unto You.” The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Reason read: June is short story month.

My first reaction to “Verlie” is to comment on the blindness of the privileged. Verlie is a maid in Todd family’s home. When news of Verlie’s husband’s death reaches the Todd household no one is sure how to tell Verlie. Their naive expectation of her reaction is one of grief. Never mind the fact Verlie and Horace haven’t seen each other in years. They can’t understand why she smiles at the news. It’s obvious they don’t know their employee even though she has been with them “forever.”

Author fact: Alice’s mother was also a writer, just not as accomplished as Alice.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).


“Roses, Rhododenron”

Adams, Alice. “Roses, Rhododendron.” The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Reason read: June is short story month.

“Roses, Rhododendron” is a short story of the angsty kind. Jane remembers her coming of age childhood; after her father left them for a younger woman, ten year old Jane’s mother packed them up and moved from Boston to the suburbs of North Carolina. Jane remembers everything being different in the south – the houses, the gardens, the people. She looks back at the  impact made by the relationship she had at the time with her eccentric mother, Margot and the new friendship with a girl her age living in the neighborhood, Harriet and Harriet’s mother, Emily. Jane was fascinated with everything in Harriet’s life. It seemed so calm and dignified compared to her own. Mother Margot had a loose, breezy hold on her daughter while allowing a Ouija board to dictate her own life. Meanwhile, Harriet’s parents appeared to be cultured, educated and refined. It was only when Margot disclosed some unsettling gossip that Jane decided they had more in common than she first thought. But, the biggest surprise came when in adulthood Harriet revealed to Jane she impacted her family just as much Harriet had impacted Jane’s.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).


June Lightning

June is going to go by lightning fast. For starters, there is a concert in Bangor, Maine that I cannot wait for! Then, a concert at home. After that, a week later, an art show reception for my talented sister’s work. Then, a vacation with my best friend (Maine for the third weekend in a row). I will have many opportunities to read. Hence, the huge list:

Fiction:

  • Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson – in honor of the first month of boating weather (EB & print).
  • Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams – June is short story month (EB & print).
  • Afterlife by Paul Monette – in honor of gay and lesbian pride month (EB & print).
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Andridason – National Icelandic Day is in June (AB).

Nonfiction:

  • Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Middle East by Michael B. Oren – the Six Day War started in June.
  • Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself by Dan White – June is national hiking month.
  • I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman – in honor of Gallman’s birth month.
  • Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn – in honor of Zinn’s birth month.

Series continuations:

  • Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
  • Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame – to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

Families & Survivors

Adams, Alice. Families & Survivors. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1975.

Reason read: Alice Adams was born in the month of August. Yes, a completely boring reason to read Adams. I know.

This is the story of Louise from 1941 to 1971. We first meet Louise as a precocious teenager poolside with her best friend, Kate. As her story moves languidly through the years we watch Louise get married, have a child, have affairs, struggle with self-image and artistry and of course, grow older. Along the way we see both sides of wealth, both sides of ambition, both sides of a Southern versus Yankee culture.
Something to get used to – Adams includes a lot of parenthetic information. I found it to be a little distracting at first. And oddly enough, for the first ten years the perspective is third person about Louise then there is a switch to first person Maude, Louise’s daughter. Coming to that point was like unexpectedly hitting a speed bump in the center of town.

As an aside, another thing I was distracted by was the number of times Adams mentions the out-of-date shape of Louise’s pool.

Book trivia: Families and Survivors is Nancy Pearl’s favorite book from Adams. I found an interesting enough book but I can’t say it was my favorite. All in all I thought it was a book about growing older from the perspective of different couples. Once they all got divorced and remarried I found the characters little confusing to keep track of.

Author fact: Families and Survivors was, and still is, Adams’s first novel.

BookLust Twist: from the very first chapter in Book Lust, “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1). As an aside, because of the show Major Crimes, whenever I hear the name “Alice” I think of Rusty’s quest to find a Jane Doe they called Alice.


Caroline’s Daughters

Adams, Alice. Caroline’s Daughters. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1991.

I have to preface this by saying this was a very quick read. The characters keep you glued to the page. One of the major themes of Adams’s Caroline’s Daughters is dissatisfaction. To start with, Caroline has five daughters from three different marriages and each one couldn’t be more different from the another. The only thing they really have in common, besides their biological mother, is the need for something more in their lives. Eldest daughter Sage is a failing ceramics artist with a philandering husband. What disturbed me about her story is that everyone around her knows her husband is a cheat but no one has that conversation with her. Overweight Liza is mother to three but wants to be a writer. She is the only one who is truly satisfied, relationship-wise…at least she thinks she is (stay tuned). Fiona is a restauranteur who really doesn’t like food and can’t keep a boyfriend. Jill, as a stockbroker lawyer, is fixated on wealth so much so she has prostituted herself for the excitement and extra cash. Portia, the youngest, simply doesn’t know what she wants. Her sexuality as well as her entire life is ambiguous. True to all sibling rivalries, there is competition and jealousy among all five of them. In the midst of all this chaos is Caroline, powerless to help her daughters find their way. She has her own drama to deal with when her third husband suffers a debilitating stroke.
In addition to be a commentary on dissatisfaction, families and mother-daughter relationships, Caroline’s Daughters is a sharp look at San Francisco’s culture in the 1990s. Politics, economics, AIDS and sexuality are all common themes. It was interesting how many times Adams had a character wonder if someone in her life was gay or not.

Line that I liked, “However, despite herself she finds that she is hurrying faster, rushing against the possibility that this man could be someone she knows” (p 237). Adams is talking about the homeless, something San Francisco, as well as every other major city in the U.S., needs to address. Liza’s reaction to the homeless man is pretty typical of the wealthy.

Reason read: August is Adams’s birth month.

Author fact: There is a 1935 movie by the name of Alice Adams but it has nothing to do with author Alice Adams.

Book trivia: Caroline’s Daughters was published eight years before Adams’s death in 1999.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…Is For Alice” (p 1).