Kingsolver, Barbara. Unsheltered. New York: HarperCollins, 2018.
Reason read: I needed a book for the Portland Reading Challenge in the category of “A book you have yet to read by an author you love.” Kingsolver is it.
Contrary to the title of the book, this is the story of one particular shelter – a house called Vineland that sheltered two different families over 140 years apart. A house that stood the test of time until it couldn’t.
Modern day: Willa and Iano’s marriage is unsheltered from harsh realities. Behind Willa’s every thought of Iano is a trace of disappointment. He doesn’t respect her privacy. He is hardly the breadwinning husband even though she is the out-of-work journalist. As a professor with adoring students and a history of infidelity, Willa cannot trust him. Adding to the stress Iano’s very ill father has come to live with them in their condemned (no longer sheltering) house. Then there is Willa’s son. Zeke has his own share of trouble. His live-in girlfriend has committed suicide, leaving him with a newborn son and a pile of debt. Helene was the one with the income while Zeke was a student at the Harvard Business School. Guess who is left to care for the newborn? This is the opening shot across the bow for Unsheltered. Kingsolver delves into so much (so much!) more as the story unfolds. Historical plot follows the life of real-life naturalist Mary Treat and her quest to study the world around her. Charles Darwin has page time and even the nomination of a tyrant for a President of the United Sates gets a mention. I don’t want to say anymore except that Kingsolver is a master of words.
Lines I loved, “The silence has extended beyond her turn to speak” (p 2), “Marriages tended to harden like arteries, and she and Iano were more than thirty years into this one” (p 37), “The dangerous allure of novelty might have sparked this torment, but in the eye of the storm they held on hard to the world they knew” (p 242).
Author fact: I follow Kingsolver on the insty and she takes breathtakingly beautiful pictures.
Book trivia: Despite loving this book it took me a really, really long time to read.
Playlist: Nikki Minaj, Beyonce, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Keith Jarrett, “Tea for the Tillerman,” “Into White,” “Moonshadow,” “Hard Headed Woman,” and “Wild World” by Cat Stevens.
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?
“…April is over. Will you tell me how long before I can be there?”
-The Painted Desert, 10,000 Maniacs
I will have that song playing in my head from now until June. Not only am I planning to be there, the trip cannot happen soon enough. But for the purposes of this post: April is over and here are the books accomplished:
- The Warden by Anthony Trollope.
- The City and the House by Natalia Ginzburg (EB & print).
- Summer at Fairacre by Miss Read (EB).
- Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding.
- All Souls by Javier Marias (EB & print).
- All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor (AB and print).
- Sixpence House by Paul Collins (EB & print).
- Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs.
- Hunting Season by Nevada Barr (EB and print).
- The Game by Laurie R. King (AB/AB/print).
- Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith (EB & print)
- Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov (EB)
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwimana
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – Yes! I finally finished it!
What can I say about the previous month? Career-wise it was a busy month. I’m short staffed, budgets were due, accreditation teams loomed large, and my hockey team was breaking new records left and right. On the personal front friends were going through personal crisis after personal crisis (Just so you know, bad things are more than capable of arriving in multiples of five and six, not just three), I’m hip deep in planning a southwest trip with my sister and her sons, my mom’s dog is on Viagra, and! And. And, there was a little road race I always obsess about way too much. Somewhere in there I had a little time to read:
- Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
- Topper by Thorne Smith
- Giant by Edna Ferber
- ADDED: Flashback by Nevada Barr – in honor of Barr’s birth month. (AB)
- ADDED: White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones – on honor of Alaska.
- Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
- Cherry by Sara Wheeler
- Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – I admit, I did not finish this one.
- Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
- Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- The Moor by Laurie R. King
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – finally finished
- Calypso by David Sedaris (AB)
- Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta
- Hidden Southwest by Ray Riegert
- 1,000 Places to See Before You Die edited by Patricia Schultz
- Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne
- Arizona, New Mexico and Grand Canyon Trips by Becca Blond
Early Review for Librarything:
- Nothing. The book did not arrive in time to be reviewed in March.
I will make a return to racing in two weeks. My last public run was in July. I’m not ready. Simply not. March is also two Natalie Merchant concerts. A return to my favorite voice. Here are the books:
- Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais – in honor of March being a rainy month. Dumb, I know.
- Topper by Thorne Smith – in honor of Smith’s birth month being in March.
- Giant by Edna Ferber – in honor of Texas becoming a state in March.
- Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam – in honor of March being the month the U.S. finally pulled out of Vietnam.
- Cherry: a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard by Sara Wheeler in honor of March being the month Apsley ended his depot journey.
- Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – to finally finish the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza – to finish the series started in February in honor of the Carnival festival in Brazil.
- Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- The Moor by Laurie R. King – to continue the series started in January in honor of Mystery Month.
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – still reading
- Calypso by David Sedaris – needed for the Portland Public Library reading challenge.
- Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta – written by a faculty member.
- Hidden Southwest edited by Ray Riegert – for my May trip.
- 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz – for my May trip…and the 2020 Italy trip.
What to say about this month? It was epic in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, I turned half a century old. I don’t mind the number; I am not bothered by the age. Never the less, friends and family gathered for a party to remember. And. And! And, I re-upped my commitment to running. It’s been slow but I have to admit something here – my breathing has been effed up. I have a scheduled appointment for early March so…I continue to read.
Here are the books:
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch. (EB & print)
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker. (EB)
- Crossers by Philip Caputo. (EB and print)
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. (EB and print)
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey. (print only)
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. (AB, EB and print)
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King. (EB and print)
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett. (print)
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (EB)
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow. (EB and print)
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg.
- Corregidora by Gayl Jones (reread).
- Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne.
- Calypso by David Sedaris (started).
- Sharp by Michelle Dean (continuing)
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (continuing)
We are nearly one full week into February and I have yet to report what is on the reading list. I have to admit, my other (non-book) life got in the way. I was selected for jury duty for a trial that lasted three days, a friend was admitted to the hospital with atrial fibrillation for three days, an uncle was taken off hospice, and oh yeah, I turned fifty with my family and friends in attendance. The last week of January going into the first week of February was all a bit nutty. And. And! And, I am running again. So, there’s that. But enough of that. Here are the books:
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker (EB)- in honor of Walker’s birth month.
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch (EB & print) – in memory of Busch’s death month.
- Crossers by Philip Caputo (EB & print) – in honor of Arizona becoming a state in February.
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (EB & print) – in honor of Brazil’s festival.
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey (print) in honor of Yates’s birthday.
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (AB) in honor of February being Feed the Birds Month.
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (EB & print) – to continue the series started in honor of January being Mystery Month.
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett (print) – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov (EB) – in honor of Asimov’s birth month being in January.
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow (EB & print) – to continue the series started in January in honor of Alaska becoming a state.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to Be a Patient by Dr. Sana Goldberg (confessional: I started this in January and haven’t finished it yet).
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.
I definitely didn’t do this on purpose because I never structure my reading this way, but January turned out to be a month of mostly woman authors (notated with a ‘w’). I am including the books I started in January but have not finished. Because they are not Challenge books they do not need to be finished in the same month. And. And! And, I have started running again. After a six month hiatus, I think I am back! Sort of.
- A Cold-Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow (w & EB)
- The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (w & AB)
- Firewatch by Connie Willis (w & EB)
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown (w & EB)
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov (AB)
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch
- ADDED: The Renunciation by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn
- The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior edited by Chris Elphick, John Dunning & David Allen Sibley
- The Turk by Tom Standage
- ADDED: Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett
Early Review Program for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim
- How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg – not finished yet
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – not finished yet
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – not finished yet
I don’t know where March went. I’ve looked under calendars and in date books and I still can’t figure it out. The month went by so fast! Here are the books finished for March:
- Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
- The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
- Family Man by Jayne Krentz
- Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (AB)
- The Brontes by Juliet Barker (DNF)
- Means of Ascent by Robert Caro (DNF)
- Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan (Fun)
- In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (would have been an Early Review book a long time ago)
On tap for April (besides a little Noodle 5k run):
- A Considerable Town by MFK Fisher ~ in honor of April being the best time to visit France
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman ~ for fun
- Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi ~ in honor of gardening month
- Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot ~ in honor of April Fools
- Don’t Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock ~ in honor of April being Food Month (AB)
- The Grand Tour by Tim Moore ~ in honor of Harvey Ball passing in April
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Lacuna. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Lacuna. Read by Barbara Kingsolver. New York: Recorded Books, 2009.
This was an anniversary gift from my beloved Kisa when it was first published. Kingsolver is my favorite author so I have been savoring it like fine wine.
Reason read: Two reasons. As I mentioned before, Kingsolver is my favorite author and March is the best time to go to Mexico. Or so they say…
Mexico, 1929. In the beginning American-born Harrison Shepard is a simple young boy just barely holding onto his Mexican mother’s apron strings as she drags him through one failed relationship to another in her never-ending quest for all-adoring lover. He is without friends or proper parenting. His closest companions are housekeepers and servant boys.
As Harrison matures he he finds work as a plaster-mixer/cook in artist Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo’s home. He befriends political figures like Lev Trotsky. He is now in a world where packing a machine gun along with food and a blanket for a picnic is nothing out of the ordinary. He writes everything down. From there, this coming of age tale turns political. America, 1941. Harrison finds his way to Asheville, North Carolina and goes on to be a successful author. Polio and Communism are the growing paranoias of the times. Harrison’s personality, unchanged since childhood, and his involvement with Rivera and Trotsky put him on a dangerous path of presumption and suspicion.
This is a tale of loyalty and love; a portrait of a quiet, unassuming man just trying to make it in the world.
Read it. Read it. Read it!
I could quote entire sections of The Lacuna but I will limit myself to just a few (while trying not to go overboard): “The ocean is the last dream in the morning before the noise from the street comes in” (p 49), “Yesterday’s heroes fall beneath the shoes of the city” (p 68), “You seemed to be excavating your soul to locate some kindness” (p 184), “Even morality is a business of supply and demand” (p 396), and – last one – “Years do not erase bereavement” (p 506).
Author fact:Kingsolver reads her own book. This is a special treat because the author knows her own story. She knows what emotion to put into a character’s mouth as the words come out. Later next month I’ll be listening to Spurlock read his own book, Don’t Eat This Book. Should be interesting.
Book Audio trivia: In addition to Kingsolver reading Lacuna there is music before each part of the book. I especially liked the instrumental before Part IV.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Postcards from Mexico” (p 186).