Golden Gate

Seth, Vikram. The Golden Gate: a Novel in Verse. New York: Random House, 1986.

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge under the category of a novel in poem form.

This is an early eighties story of a group of people living in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridget in San Francisco. John is a successful but lonely executive looking for some kind of love. His ex-girlfriend-turned-loyal-good-friend, Janet Hayakawa, takes pity on him and places an ad in the personals (a la Rupert Holmes: if you like Pina Coladas). As John goes on bland blind date after bland blind date he finds ways to avoid second encounters with each woman until he meets Liz. It’s practically love at both sight for both of them…until he moves in with her and meets her cat. Competition with a pet is not easy.
Philip Weiss is also looking for love after his wife, Claire Cabot, left him and their young son, Paul. When Philip tries a different sort of love he is confronted with conflicting feelings. Morality, religion, and society’s attitudes guide his choices. These are just a few of the characters in Golden Gate. As the reader, you get to delve into their work, their relationships, their responsibilities. It’s all about human connections. Attitudes towards homosexuality. The loss of love. The ridiculous fights you can have in the throes of love. The fact it is one giant poem is just icing on the cake. I was captivated until the (surprising) end.
It took Vikram thirteen months to finish The Golden Gate.

As an aside, I like the names of the cats: Cuff, Link, and Charlemagne.

Line I liked, “Their brains appear to be dissolving to sugary sludge as they caress” (p 52). Isn’t that what true love is all about?

Playlist: “Apple of My Heart,” Brahms, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Mozart, Schonberg, Grateful Dead. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson.

Author fact: Seth also wrote A Suitable Boy which is on my Challenge List.

Book trivia: Even the Dedication and Acknowledgements are in verse.

Nancy said: Pearl called Golden Gate funny and warm.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First in the chapter called “California, Here We Come” (p 49), and again in “Poetry: a Novel Idea” (p 186).


The Fields

Richter, Conrad. The Fields. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March in honor of Ohio becoming a state.

When we rejoin Sayward Wheeler (nee Luckett), she has given birth to a baby boy she names Resolve. What a cool name for a kid! Sayward is a lonely woman because she has married a hesitant man. Portius ran out on Sayward when it came time to get married. He disappeared when she gave birth to their first son and it took Portius a long time to even acknowledge his first born son, Resolve. Portius was not even part of the baptism ceremony for Resolve. Sayward’s sister Genny is the only family she has left in the region. Everyone else has scattered to the wind. Her father left when Jary died and Wyitt only returns from time to time. Sulie is still missing, presumed either dead or held captive by the regional natives. Betrayal follows Sayward but she is a resilient woman. She knows how to fight adversity fair and square.
Fast fast forward and now Sayward has had seven children; eight if you could little Sulie who died in a fire. With her brood of children Sayward watches her southern Ohio woodland home stretch into fields of openness with more and more people populating the area. Statehood has been declared and soon there is a need for a meeting house, school, boat launch, grist mill; times are changing. As the trees and animals are cleared out Sayward knows nothing will be the same. A competition grows between the newly established Tateville and Sayward’s Moonshine Settlement. With Portius spending more time in town Sayward must chose between society’s growing expansion and the comfort of all she has ever known.
As an aside, I have always wondered about churches with a graveyard attached. Why the two always seem to go together. It was interesting when the townspeople approached Sayward for her land. The fields are growing into towns and people need a church. Sayward has the most land to offer.
As another aside, I found the gluttonous hunting scene a little much: in total the men slaughtered at one time nineteen wolves, twenty-one bears, three panthers ,two hundred and ninety seven deer, and too many raccoon, fox, squirrel, and turkey to count. Richter summed it up well when he wrote of Sayward’s brother Wyitt, “He was drunk, that’s what he was, drunk on blood and gunpowder” (p 78).

Soundtrack: “Farewell of a Minister”

Author fact: Richter was born and died in Pennsylvania.

Book trivia: The Fields is the only book in the trilogy to not receive some kind of award.

Nancy said: Pearl said all three Richter books should be read in order.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Ohio)” (p 30).


Orchid Fever

Hansen, Eric. Orchid Fever: a Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.

Reason read: April is when everyone starts thinking about their gardens. Probably not orchids, though…I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of a true non-violent crime. Groundskeepers at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, call the exhibits the largest collection of horticultural loot and with words like racket, exploitation, trafficking, plundering, smuggling, and pirating I think I found the right book..

Hansen knows how to get the reader’s attention. Orchid Fever opens with a human body falling through a rain forest canopy. His guide, Tiong, seemingly fell out of the sky. Hansen was on the island of Borneo to see help build an upriver plant nursery for the Penan people. How is this for a cryptic meeting time and place: “The message was for them to meet us at the junction of the Limbang and Medalam rivers on the full moon of the fourth month of 1993” (p 8)?
He approaches his subject of orchid crime with a sense of skepticism at first. He calls these orchid-obsessed horticulturalists, “orchid people” as if they are some kind of alien race and yet, he travels the globe to meet them and start using words like racket, exploitation, trafficking, plunder, pirating, and smuggling to describe their behavior. Soon Hansen realizes these “orchid people” are so passionate about their orchids some can be driven to actual violence if provoked. It also seems that every time a legitimate researcher gets a shipment of orchids no matter how lawfully or innocently, that’s when the trouble starts. But orchids are not just for flower shows and smuggling. Hansen travels to Turkey and learns about how orchid ice cream is made from the tubers of a specific orchid. A flour made from the dried tubers creates a chewy, almost elastic texture. He also learns of the medicinal properties of orchids with such claims as the ability to heal a damaged spleen, prevent cholera and tuberculosis, facilitate childbirth, and improve sex life. Orchis in Greek does mean testicle…Along those lines, you will be introduced to the term ‘phyto-necrophilia.’ It is the “abnormal fascination or love of a dead plant material. Yes, it’s a thing. Hansen also travels to Minnesota, an area you don’t readily think of for orchids, to meet a man who tries to save orchids from being bulldozed in developing areas.

As an aside, I thought about Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf a lot while reading Orchid Fever.

Quotes to quote, “It was about this time that I got into the habit of taping my comp disks to the backs of cereal boxes in the kitchen cabinets” (p 68).
A sense of Hansen’s dry sense of humor, “We also called on Kemal Kucukonderuzunkoluk (pronounced Kucukonderuzunkkoluk), who operates one of the oldest ice creams stores in Maras” (p 97) and “Sitting at the table, an uneasy feeling came over me as I realized it was quite possible that I was the strange one” (p 234).

Soundtrack: Rockin’ Dopsie and the Cajun Twisters.

Author fact: Hansen also wrote The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, Motoring with Mohammed and Stranger in the Forest. All three books are on my Challenge list and I am looking forward to reading them.

Book trivia: Each chapter is punctuated with a beautiful black and white illustration of an orchid.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Orchid Fever other than to explain the plot and say Orchid Fever compliments Susan Orlean’s book of the same subject, The Orchid Thief.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 300s” (p 62).


The Plague and I

MacDonald, Betty. The Plague and I. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1948.

Reason read: April is Humor Month.

I don’t know how someone can find humor in having tuberculosis, but then again, I’m not Betty MacDonald. She can find the funny in just about everything. This serious illness has come late to Betty. She is almost thirty, already married and divorced and a mother to two small children. Everything about tuberculosis is a mystery to her. The Pine’s list of treatments includes a long list of rules for new patients: no reading, no writing, no talking, no singing, no laughing, no plants, no flowers, no outside medications, no talking to other patients’ visitors, no personal clothes, and most damning of all, no hot water bottles. The goal is rest, rest, rest. When Betty first arrives at the sanitarium she doesn’t know if being cold all the time is a sign her disease is worse than others. Then she realizes it is cold all the time…for everyone. There is a great deal made of analyzing one’s sputum – determine color and measuring exactly how much is expelled. Betty wishes she had a more ladylike disease such as a brain tumor or a hot climate disease like jungle rot.
Despite the rules, the constant cold, and the overbearing Charge nurse, Betty makes friends and finds something to laugh at the entire time. How she leaves The Pines was a bit of a surprise to me but I’ll leave that for you to read.

As an aside, even though she doesn’t figure into the plot extensively, Gammy is a hoot.

Quotes I loved, “I was sure that I could be more intelligently cooperative if I knew what I was doing” (p 71).
Most realist quote, “I am neither Christian enough nor charitable enough to like anybody just because he is alive and breathing” (p 89 – 90) and “This simple pleasure was denied me, however, for I had been advised by the authorities that wandering in the grounds before breakfast meant just one thing – S.E.X.” (p 237).
Quote that distressed me, “He laughed, punched me in the stomach and ordered a sedative (p 111). What?

Playlist: “Hills of Home,” “Sonny Boy,” “My Buddy,” “Boy of Mine,” “Wind Through the Olive Tree,” “Tea for Two,” “Night and Day,” “Body and Soul,” “Judy,”
Christmas setlist: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World,” ” Silent Night,” “Adeste Fideles,” “We three Kings of Orient Are,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Once in Royal David’s City,” “O Holy Night,” “Away in a Manger.”

Author fact: MacDonald also wrote Onions in the Stew and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Both are on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: The Plague and I follows The Egg and I but can be read separately. Onions in the Stew is the third book in the memoir vein.

Nancy said: Pearl included The Plague and I in her list of books she considers so funny they will having you falling off your chair, but didn’t say anything specific about the book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Tickle Your Funny Bone” (p 217).


Lucky in the Corner

Anshaw, Carol. Lucky in the Corner. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002

Reason read: April is National Dog Month.

In a word, Lucky in the Corner is about relationships. Okay, two words: complicated relationships. Nora and Fern have a strained mother-daughter relationship. Nora had Fern at a young age essentially defying her own deep rooted lesbian reality: she first kissed a girl at age twelve. Now, in a romantic relationship with sophisticated Jeanne, Nora is trying to find common ground with defiant Fern. Her daughter is the type of girl to get a tattoo just to piss off a parent.
Fern works as a psychic knowing full well this too is something her mother will never understand. To be fair, Fern has an uneasy relationship with her mother because she can never quite trust Nora will always be there for Fern. She has felt her mother could disappear at any second, exactly like a not-quite-there hologram. Call it her psychic abilities but Fern senses her mother’s betrayals before they happen. Beyond navigating a complicated relationship with her mother, Fern is also coping with a breakup, the changing relationship with her best friend (who is now a mother herself), and the peripheral relationships with her mother’s girlfriend, Jeanne and Fern’s cross dressing uncle, Harold. The only relationship not changing too much is the one Fern has with her dog, Lucky.

Quote to quote, “One of the most excellent things about him is that he is able to let observations roll to a comfortable spot on the side of the road” (p 203).

Playlist:

  • Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,”
  • “Turn the Ship Around” by David Marquet,
  • Della Reese’s “Someday,”
  • “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin,
  • “Different Drum” by the Stone Poneys,
  • Lena Horne’s version of “Stormy Weather”
  • “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow,
  • “Book of Love,”
  • The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love,
  • “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee,
  • “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” by Teresa Brewer,
  • Radiohead,
  • “Volare,”
  • “Misty,”
  • Rage Against the Machine,
  • Beck,
  • Yo-Yo Ma,
  • Judy Garland.

Author fact: Anshaw has written a bunch of other things. I am only reading Lucky in the Corner.

Book trivia: this should be a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Lucky in the Corner as having a character who is either gay or lesbian.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Out of the Closet” (p 93). Lucky in the Corner is also mentioned in “Great Dogs in Fiction” (also from Book Lust p 104).


Alice, Let’s Eat

Trillin, Calvin. The Tummy Trililogy: Alice, Let’s Eat. New York: Farrah, Straus and Giroux, 1994.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March for Food Month.

Calvin Trillin has an ever-patient wife. In Alice, Let’s Eat Mrs. Alice Trillin practically steals the show in every chapter she appears. She has great wit. As an example, I loved her “Law of Compensatory Cashflow.” My husband has the same law: if you save a bunch of money by not buying something, you are free to use that savings on something equally as frivolous. At the time of writing, an in-flight meal cost $33. Trillin packs his own “flight picnic” so he can spend the “saved” money somewhere else, maybe on an oyster loaf. Much like American Fried, Alice, Let’s Eat is a collection of humorous essays all about eating and finding the best food across the globe.

As an aside, I need to look up Steve’s Ice Cream in Somerville to see if it still exists.

Sound track: “Hello, Dolly.” Musically related, Trillin visited Owensboro and I couldn’t help but think of Natalie Merchant coving the song, “Owensboro.” No one knows who wrote the old folk song, but it’s a good one.

Author fact: I wanted to find some fact that was “Alice” related. I learned that Trillin and his wife were married just shy of 40 years. She passed away in 2001, just four years shy of their fortieth anniversary.

Book trivia: Alice, Let’s Eat can be read independently of any other book in the Tummy Trilogy.

Nancy said: Pearl called Alice, Let’s Eat a treasure.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food For Thought” (p 91). Curiously, Alice, Let’s Eat was not included in the index of Book Lust.


Four to Score

Evanovich, Janet. Four to Score. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.

Five months ago we last left Stephanie “in a clinch” on her couch with Joe Morelli. Now, five months have passed and Stephanie Plum is still trying to be a bail bondsman (or is it bondswoman?) for her cousin Vinnie. She doesn’t quite have her technique honed in, but she’s getting there. She’s the type of girl who can’t pass up a home-cooked meal or the chance to make promises while crossing her fingers behind her back. It should be said, Stephanie is a walking disaster. Dead bodies pile up in her wake. So much so she is starting to get a reputation. Her vehicles are continuously getting destroyed (at least one per book). this time it’s a Honda CRX. Luckily for her, her family’s baby blue boat of a Buick is always available.
This time Stephanie is on the hunt for Maxine Nowicki, wanted for theft and extortion. Only, Steph has unwanted company. Vinnie has hired nemesis Joyce Barnhardt, the woman who lured Stephanie’s husband to cheat. Stephanie and Joyce have known each other since high school. Maxine shouldn’t be hard to find. She has been leaving demented clues for her ex to follow like some kind of vicious scavenger hunt. At the same time, Stephanie is dealing with her own jealous girlfriend – someone insane enough to torch her Honda CRX and firebomb her apartment.

As an aside, in Three to Get Deadly I was very much aware of how many cousins Stephanie seems to have: everyone is a cousin. Eddie Gazarra married Stephanie’s cousin, Shirley. Cousin Maureen works at the button factory. Cousin Jeanine works at the post office. In Four to Score I learned Cousin Marion works at the bank. Let’s still not forget cousin Vinny!

Lines I liked, “This book is rated PG35 for licentious wit and libidinous cohabitation” and “I slunk back to my car and decided my deductive reasoning would be vastly improved if I ate a doughnut” (p 16). I think that way, too.

Playlist: Metallica, Savage Garden, Buddy Holly,

Author fact: some of Evanovich’s stories have ended up in Reader’s Digest.

Book trivia: One of my all time favorite Jersey hangouts is featuring in Four to Score. I absolutely adore Point Pleasant.

Nancy said: Pearl said you can’t label Evanovich’s books as mysteries but they are hilarious and you will laugh all the way through the series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).


Invisible People

Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: Invisible People. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1992.

Reason read: to finish the series started in January.

The stories in Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City keep getting sadder and sadder. The subtle humor once found in earlier stories has slipped away in Invisible People. Take Pincus Pleatnik from the short story “Sanctum.” Someone at the newspaper has made a mistake and prematurely put his name in the obituary section. Because Pincus is an unmemorable (invisible) man no one believes him when he tries to prove his living-and-breathing existence. Then there is the librarian, a spinster in her 40s in “Mortal Combat.” She spent her entire life looking after her father. Despite the many sacrifices she has made over the years to care for her dad, once he passes she believes it is not too late to have a life of her own. She tries…except she choses a man exactly like herself, locked into a lifetime of caring for a parent.

As an aside, I was reminded of the lyrics from “Motherland”, a Natalie Merchant song: “Nameless, faceless, innocent, blameless, free. Now tell me what that’s like to be.” The people in Invisible People are indeed nameless and faceless.

Only quote I liked, “the pity of it is that deep-city dwellers carefully sidestep the human debris that they see in the doorways and crannies around them” (p 41).

Author fact: Eisner said he wrote Invisible People in anger. He read an article about a woman who was failed by the system. You can read more about it here.

Book trivia: Invisible People is the last set of stories in Will Eisner’s New York.

Nancy said: Pearl said Invisible People as one of the books about New York City she really liked.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York: a Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).


Miss Mole

Young, E. H. Miss Mole. New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1985

Reason read: Miss Mole was supposed to be this quick, under 300 page easy read I could bang out in a week’s time. Instead it turned out to be a slog I put down and then forgot to pick back up…for eight weeks. Oops.

Confessional: In the beginning, I didn’t care for Hannah Mole. In the beginning I was questioning myself, was I supposed to like Hannah Mole? Possibly not, since this was included in the More Book Lust chapter called “Viragos.” After finishing the book and with careful consideration, I think I am supposed to see Hannah as an independent, plucky, middle aged woman who barges through life with integrity, wit and humor. She had a prejudice against nonconformist ministers, tells small lies (don’t we all?), and keeps secrets. The more Miss Mole’s personality blossomed, the more I admired her. Plucky! As my grandmother used to say.

As an aside, I don’t know why Hannah Mole would subject herself to being a companion for a succession of crotchety old women. As a middle aged spinster, she starts working for Reverend Corder. It seems as if she has traded in her difficult women for a pompous ass.

Line I liked, “I was wondering if the best wives are the ones who are not married” (p 41).

Author fact: Miss Mole is considered Young’s best work.

Book trivia: Miss Mole won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1930.

Nancy said: Pearl said Miss Mole was a virago you should not miss.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust from, as I’ve said several times over, the chapter called “Viragos” (p 227).


I Leap Over the Wall

Baldwin, Monica. I Leap Over the Wall: Contrasts and Impressions After Twenty-Eight Years in a Convent. New York: Rinehart & Company, 1950.

Reason read: Easter is one of the most religious holidays I know. During this pandemic crisis my family had a zoom meeting in order to be together. Read Baldwin in recognition of Easter.

Like the title implies, Monica Baldwin spent twenty-eight years of her life in a Roman Catholic convent. She had thought she wanted to give her life to God until one day…she didn’t. So after twenty-eight years, she left. Just like that. The first order of business “on the outside” was for Baldwin to find suitable clothes for the outside world. The second critical task was to secure suitable employment. The first was easier than the second considering England was in the midst of World War II. Baldwin struggled as a gardener, a matron at a camp for female munitions workers, a canteen cook, and a librarian. At heart she was always a writer. I Leap Over the Wall was meant to be a journalistic memoir, contrasting and comparing the structured life of being a nun to the haphazardness of the outside. Readers get a sense of how structured Baldwin’s life had been on the inside: the day to day duties of a novice and even the caste-like division of the monastic houses. Despite this structure, something she thought she needed, Baldwin knew from the very beginning that entering the convent was a mistake. It took her twenty-eight years to seek rescript from the Vatican.

Author fact: I find it really interesting that Baldwin entered the convent soon after the start of World War I and emerged during World War II.

Book trivia: My copy of I Leap Over the Wall was inscribed “Elinor E. Parker February 1, 1950 Brooklyn, N.Y.” I have no idea who Elinor was or how her book ended up in the attic of my parents.

Nancy said: Pearl said she was entranced with Baldwin’s book because it was a world she would never know.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: the Family of the Clergy” (p 86).


Brothers K

Duncan, David James. The Brothers K. Read by Robertson Dean. New York: Dial Press, 1996.

Reason read: April is National Sibling month. April is Easter. April is spring training month for baseball. April is Humor month. The Brothers K has all these elements and more.

To say this is the saga of one family in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington would be only somewhat accurate. To call The Brothers K a book about baseball and religion would also be somewhat accurate. Papa Hugh “Smoke” Chance was a talented enough pitcher to be drafted into the minor leagues and was on his way to the majors. Mama Chance was an extremely devout Seven Day Adventist. Baseball and religion. As with any parents of influence, their themes are the backbone of The Brothers K. Arguably, there is a great deal of sports play by play and religious fervor, as other reviewers have pointed out. What saves The Brothers K from being long winded and tedious is narrator and youngest son, Kincade Chance. His humor and sharp wit keep the plot from getting too bogged down. Interspersed with his story is older brother, Everett’s school essay and biography about the family patriarch.
Despite there being six children in the Chance household, only eldest Everett, middle brother Peter, and next to youngest brother Irwin have significant stories. Kincade doesn’t share very many details about himself and even less about his science obsessed twin sisters, Winnifred and Beatrice. Everett grows up to be an outspoken politician against the Vietnam War. Peter becomes the perpetual student; first studying at Harvard, then Buddhism in India. Irwin’s tragic story is that he sent to Vietnam and forever changed.

As an aside, I have a friend who always says “darn tootin'” whenever he is absolutely sure of something. Until The Brothers K I had never heard anyone else say that.

Author fact: Duncan also wrote River Why and My Story as Told by Water, both on my Challenge list.

Book Audio trivia: Robertson Dean’s reading of The Brothers K is fantastic.

Nancy said: Pearl called Brothers K “engrossing” (“Brothers and Sisters”),
“well-written and interesting” (“Families in Trouble”), and a novel “complicated by the whole Oedipal shtick” (“Mothers and Sons”).

BookLust Twist: You can always tell when Pearl likes a book. It will show up in a bunch of different places. For Brothers K it is indexed in Book Lust in three different chapters, “Brothers and Sisters” (p 46), “Families in Trouble” (p 82), and “Mothers and Sons” (p 160).


Baking Cakes in Kigali

Parkin, Gaile. Baking Cakes in Kigali. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.

Reason read: the Rwanda genocide happened on April 6th, 1994. Read in memory of that event.

Respected as a skilled baker in her new Rwandan community, Angel Tungaraza also acts as a voice of reason and likes to solve her customer’s problems whether they ask for her help or not (think of a bartender or hair dresser; someone who can listen to one’s woes and offer advice for the sheer sake of chitchat). Drawing from her life in Tanzania, she manages to help her friends and neighbors in unique ways. Angel isn’t without her faults, though. She protects her reputation fiercely and can come across as snobbish when she doesn’t approve of the cake someone else has baked or designed. If the customer chooses colors and styles that are “boring” in Angel’s opinion she secretly scoffs at them. She also carries a secret shame; one that she cannot even admit to herself.
Throughout Baking Cakes in Kigali I was comparing Angela to Angela Lansbury in “Murder, She Wrote.” Only instead of murders, Angel Tungaraza muddles her way through issues such as adultery, ritual cutting, equal rights for women, and racial prejudices; tackling the aftershocks of societal catastrophes such as AIDS and the Rwandan genocide.

Author fact: Parkin also wrote When Hoopoes Go to Heaven which is not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Many, many people compared Baking Cakes in Kigali to Alexander McCall Smith’s series.

Nancy said: Pearl called Baking Cakes in Kigali “charming.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 8).


In Search of Safety

Kuklin, Susan. In Search of Safety: Voices of Refugees. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2020.

Reason read: this is an Early Review from LibraryThing. Although I am hardly reading anything these days, this was too important to ignore.

In Search of Safety is comprised of five refugee stories from five different parts of the world yet all have two common threads. All five stories are of individuals seeking safety despite varying circumstances. They all end up in the United States in, of all places, Nebraska.
Fraidoon from Afghanistan, Nathan from Myanmar, Nyarout from South Sudan, Shireen from Northern Iraq, and Dieudonne from Burundi. Each refugee demonstrates remarkable courage, strength and, above all, trust to journey to America. In Search of Safety is compassionate and Kuklin is respectful in telling each harrowing story. The book’s hidden strength is the amount of information in Part VI: Notes and Resources.

Book trivia: there is a great number of touching photographs and (in the published edition) maps.


My Family and Other Animals

Durrell, Gerald. My Family and Other Animals. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956.

Reason read: April is Humor month. If this makes me laugh through any part of Covid-19 I say bring it on!

Gerald Durrell wanted to write a serious book about the animals he encountered as a ten year old child on the the island of Corfu. Instead, his sense of humor and wacky family kept getting the better of his memories from 1935 – 1939. Instead of just documenting the creatures of his childhood, My Family and Other Animals is a hilarious memoir with some pretty unbelievable (obviously exaggerated) moments. How is it possible that eldest son, Lawrence, convinces his widowed mom to pack up their London home and transplant a family of three kids and a dog to the Greek island of Corfu? This same mom not only tolerates the critters Gerald brings into the house, but accepts them as bona fide pets. Insects, lizards, turtles, birds all join the Durrell family with hilarious results.

Best quote to quote, “I forgot about the eminent danger of being educated, and went off with Roger to hunt for glowworms in the sprawling brambles” (p 52). Typical kid.

Author fact: the list of books Durrell has written is extensive. I am only reading the Corfu trilogy.

Book trivia: My Family and Other Animals is part of a trilogy. I am reading all three for the Challenge.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned My Family and Other Animals as one that made her laugh out loud.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Tickle Your Funny Bone” (p 220).


Openhearted Audience

Haviland, Virginia, ed. The Openhearted Audience: Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 1980.

Reason read: Pearl included this in the chapter called “Your Tax Dollars at Work” and tax filing time is normally April. Read in memory of normalcy.

Openhearted Audience is a collection of essays (actually lectures given in observance of National Children’s Book Week, (in November) at the Library of Congress) by authors who primarily write books for children:

  • Pamela Travers who wrote the Mary Poppins series (which is not on my list).
  • Maurice Sendak who wrote so many good books (everyone knows Where the Wild Things Are). None are on my challenge list, though. I liked what he had to say about New York, “Now, the point of going to New York was that you ate in New York” (p 32). Amen.
  • Joan Didion who wrote Miami, which I finished for the challenge and Play It as It Lies which will be read later. she wanted to know what it means to write for children as opposed to adults. Is there stigma attached to writing for a less developed intelligence?
  • Erik Haugaard who made the point about sharing art. I have often wondered why it is important to us that people first agree, then like, our recommendations where art is concerned. the fact we can find ourselves offended when one doesn’t share our opinions, or worse, dislike the recommendation mystifies me. Even though we didn’t produce the art, write the book, or make the movie, we feel rejected somehow; as if the art we presented were our own.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin who wrote The Wizard of Earthsea (her first book for children).
  • Ivan Southall who said “Life is more than blunt reaction” (p 87).
  • Virginia Hamilton who won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1969.
  • Jill Paton Walsh who won the Whitbread Literary Award in 1974.
  • Eleanor Cameron who talks of dreams.
  • John Rowe Townsend who was both a critic and a children’s writer.

Author Editor fact: Haviland interviewed Sendak. I wonder what that experience was like because he seemed like a curmudgeon.

Book trivia: Openhearted Audience is full of great illustrations.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything about this selection. In fact, she didn’t pick it. A librarian from Illinois sent Pearl a list of government documents people should read and Openhearted Audience was included.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust as mentioned before in the chapter called “You Tax Dollars at Work” (p 239).