Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior. New York: HarperPerennial, 2012.
Reason read: I love, love, love Kingsolver’s writing. Challenge be damned!
“A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and that is one part rapture” (p 1). This is the very first sentence in Flight Behavior. The thing about Kingsolver’s writing is that she has the ability to look at the human condition and give it emotions and intelligence. How many of us have been slightly excited about ruining our lives in some manner? There is a certain buzz about the brain when the potential for destruction shows itself. Like imagining yourself hurtling out of a speeding vehicle, your hand reaching for the latch…
Dellarobia is a young housewife trapped by circumstance: uneducated, having only graduated from high school; untraveled and naive, never setting foot outside her backwoods county. She is rooted in place with two small children, always bowing down to the criticisms of an overbearing mother-in-law who still has her son wrapped around her little finger. Dellarobia’s entire life has been one pitfall after another. Marrying her high school boyfriend after he gets her pregnant locks her into the only relationship she’s even known. Poverty has kept her stuck in a never ending cycle day in and day out. So when the opportunity for small indulgences dance into view, she takes them in the form of hopeless crushes and fantasies of infidelity. She was on her way to meet her newest flame; on her way to finally overstepping that boundary of no return when something scared her into going back. Vanity had forced Dellarobia to leave her glasses behind when she hikes up a mountain to meet her illicit love interest. Through the blur a burning fire appeared, changing her life forever.
Lines I loved (out of a million), “Plenty of people took this way out, looking future damage in the eye and naming it something else” (p 1), and “If she could pretend ice cream flavored breakfast snacks did not cause obesity, he might overlook the less advantageous aspects of lung cancer” (p 169).
Author fact: Kingsolver is partly responsible for my love affair with the southwest. Because of her I dream of visiting Arizona.
Book trivia: I read a lot of interviews where readers are disappointed with Kingsolver’s didactic storytelling. Get over it, people! Kingsolver is like that rock musician who needs to tell you about Amnesty International or Planned Parenthood, or how our current political landscape sucks. When the public builds a celebrity a soapbox high enough to see over all the bullsh!t he or she going to stand on that soapbox to say something important to them. How could they not?
Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. New York: Broadway Books, 1998.
Bill Bryson is one of those “collectible” authors. Meaning, I know I can read anything he has written and enjoy it on some level. A Walk in the Woods was no different. One day in 1996 while walking near his Hanover, New Hampshire home Bryson gets it into his head to hike the Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia and working his way, 2,100 miles later, to Maine. He brings along an old buddy, Stephen Katz, someone he hasn’t seen in years. They make an interesting pair and their relationship is one of the best parts of the book, but there is a little of everything in A Walk in the Woods. Over the course of 870 miles, Bryson has the opportunity to tackle the serious with a touch of silliness. Case in point, the bears. Bryson jokes about becoming a snack for the hungry mammals but at the same time paints a pretty scary picture of what those beasts can do. While a great deal of the book is written in a humorous tone (can you just picture the “waddlesome sloth” he mentions on page 4?), Bryson also has a sobering commentary on the history of the trail, man’s devastating logging and hunting practices, and the sociological quirks of the regions he visits. His visit to Centralia, Pennsylvania is both haunting and disturbing. From the blundering beginnings of trying to buy the correct equipment (and use it properly) to the soberly fact the Appalachian Trail is over 2,000 miles long and they will never finish it, Bryson and Katz experience the best and worst of an iconic trail. Even though they end up skipping the AT from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, the pair learn more about America (and themselves) than they bargained for. A Walk in the Woods made me want to find my own little piece of the trail and hike it, just to say I did.
Reason read: Bill Bryson was born in December. Read A Walk in the Woods in his honor.
Author fact: Bryson had moved his family to the other side of the pond. This hike was a “coming home” of sorts.
Book trivia: Supposedly, A Walk in the Woods is being made into a movie.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Bill Bryson: Too Good To Miss” (p 37). I have 13 different Bryson books to read. The one I am looking forward to reading the most is Palace Under the Alps.
Skipper, Roger Alan. Tear Down the Mountain: an Appalachian Love Story. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2006.
This is a tragic story about love in hard times. Sid and Janet’s love story. To describe Janet is to think of a quiet running stream. She is shallow and it is easy to see to the bottom of her personality. Sid is more like a deep rushing rapid. He is turbulent and complicated. The violence that springs up between them is defiant and born out of a survival mode of sorts. They meet as children, innocent enough, outside of a church. Both come from volatile homes so it’s only natural they continue that chaos as a couple. Everything about their relationship is tragic. As children the tragedies start small but as adulthood and poverty put them into a stranglehold they have no choice but to lash out in violent ways. What surprised me the most was how Janet’s violence altered Sid’s emotions more than Sid’s violence got to Janet. She could hurt Sid without even trying. One of the heartbreaking things about Sid is his heart was in the right place but he couldn’t catch a break. Ever. He kind of reminded me of my cousin in that respect. Most of the story is told from Sid’s perspective and only at the beginning and end do we know what Janet was thinking or feeling.
Line I liked the best, “Like kicking tires, your feet delivering what your tongue couldn’t tote” (p 36).
Reason Read: there is an old time fiddle fest in the Appalachian mountains that takes place in September. I am reading Tear the Mountain (set in Appalachia) in honor of the festival that I would probably never attend.
Author Fact: Tear Down the Mountain is Skipper’s first book.
Book Trivia: While finding reviews of Tear Down the Mountain I came across these words from Barbara Hurd, “…write simultaneously about building up and tearing down…” and that fascinated me to no end.
As an aside – when I did a Google search for Tear Down the Mountain the lyrics for “And I’m Telling You” came up. Love that song!
BookLust To Go: From Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Approaching Appalachia” (p 22).
September 2012 started in Colorado. It was nice to disappear for a week! Here are the books:
- Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook ~ in honor of Roosevelt’s birth month
- American Ground: the Unbuilding of the World Trade Center by William Langewicshe ~ in remembrance of September 11, 2001. I will be listening to this on audio.
- Tear Down the Mountain by Roger Alan Skipper ~ in honor of an Appalachian fiddle festival that takes place in September.
- The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper ~ in honor of boys going back to school.
- Ariel: the Life of Shelley by Andre Maurois ~ in honor of National Book Month.
- Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl ~ in honor of a kid named Matt who was deemed a hero in September.
So. That’s the Challenge plan. For other books I have been told I won two Early Review books from LibraryThing but since I haven’t seen them I won’t mention them here. My aunt wants me to deliver a book to mom so I, of course, read it on the way home from Colorado so it’s already finished: To Heaven and Back: a Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again by Mary C. Neal, MD. It was an amazing book.