Take This Man

Busch, Frederick. Take This Man. New York: Ballantine Books, 1983.

Reason read: February is Busch’s death month. Read in his memory.

This is a love story in its purest form. Simple plot: Ellen LaRue Spencer is on her way to California to see her soldier fiance who hasn’t shipped out to war yet. Her car breaks down in a barren midwest town where she meets hapless Tony Prioleau. Despite his unsuccessful business ventures and his thing for television (he wants to harness the power of television to assist in the war effort), Ellen is attracted to him and ends up in his bed..but she still leaves him for her fiance. Ten years later, a son shows up on Tony’s doorstep and the love Tony buried all those years ago comes bubbling back up. He accepts the boy as his own, no questions asked.
I don’t think it is a spoiler alert to say that Ellen herself comes back to Tony. But not without complications. She is still married and still confused about the depth of her attraction to Tony.
Confessional: the last twenty pages are heartbreaking.

Vivid lines, “…poured an unfresh breath into Prioleau’s face to say…” (p 46). I just love that image.
Other lines I liked, “And you cook like a mass murderer” (p 55). I don’t know what that would taste like. I’m guessing not good. And. And! And, “Twenty years later, and she was still in transit, collecting men at the edge of the sea (p 156) and “…but he was frightened as he stepped up onto the side porch to get hugged home” (p 192).

Author fact: Take This Man is Busch’s eighth book.

Book trivia: The cover of Take This Man is intriguing. Two people are adrift in a rowboat. In my mind it symbolized Tony and Ellen’s relationship. It was never solidified or tethered to reality.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Frederick Busch: Too Good To Miss” (p 48).


February Falling Behind

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:

Fiction: 

  • 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.

Nonfiction:

  • 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.

Series Continuations:

  • 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).

For Fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.


Month for Women

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.

Fiction:

  • 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 (w)
  • 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

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn (w)
  • 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 (w)

Series continuations:

  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett (w)

Early Review Program for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim (w)
  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg (w) – not finished yet

For Fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (w) – not finished yet
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (w) – not finished yet

August Behind Me

August was…the final push to move back into the new library space. People who used to work there won’t recognize it. August was also the finishing of the deck and patio. It looks awesome. Sidelined by injury I only ran 60.86 miles this month. But. But! But, here are the books:

  • Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill
  • Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell (AB)
  • Lost City of Z by David Grann
  • The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  • Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch
  • Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich
  • ADDED: Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  • ADDED: Dorothy Gutzeit: Be True and Serve by Dorothy Gutzeit (ER)

My favorite was Dogs of Riga followed by Anarchy and Old Dogs.


Children in the Woods

Busch, Frederick. Children in the Woods. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1994.

Reason read: Busch’s birth month is in August.

Children in the Woods is made up of 23 short stories. Most of the stories are really bleak. It is advisable to parse them out over time. I read one a day and even that was a little much.

  • “Bread” – a young man and his sister have the difficult task of cleaning out their parents’s house after they are killed in a plane crash. As an aside, this was the first time I’d ever heard someone other than Phish reference cluster flies. Quote I liked, “I named the chicken Bunny because I’d never been permitted to own the rabbit my mother had promised me as consolation after she’d shattered my sixth year of life by disclosing that the Easter Bunny did not in fact bring jelly beans and marshmallow chicks the color of radioactive rocks” (p 4).
  • “Bring Your Friends to the Zoo” – an adulterous couple meets at the zoo so that one of them can end it. No lines to quote but there was the sardonic phrase, “We want it to be a happy day for you and all the animals” stated over and over.
  • “Is Anyone Left This Time of Year?” – a man comes to visit Ireland in November. Since it’s post-seasonal no one is around, literally and emotionally. Quote
  • “A three-Legged Race” – a mother tries to give her 12 year old son a birthday party. Line worth mentioning, “I married Mac because he was more of a virgin that I was” (p 41).
  • “The Trouble With Being Food” – an overweight man confronts his girlfriend’s ex-husband. Much like a repeating line in “Bring Your Friends to the Zoo” there was a repeating line in “Trouble.”
  • “How the Indians Came Home” – a woman’s troubled marriage is revealed. Line I liked a lot, “But you can’t have what you want, and sometimes you live with wrong mornings” (p 72).
  • “Widow Water” – plumber “saves” people.
  • “The Lesson of the Hotel Lotti” – a daughter struggles to understand her mother’s affair with a married man.
  • “My Father, Cont.” -a child is paranoid his father is planning to abandon him in the woods ala Hansel and Gretel.
  • “What You Might as Well Call Love” – Ben and Marge tackle a sump pump and their marriage.
  • “The Settlement on Mars” – Parents take separate vacations.
  • “Critics” – parents struggle with who wears the pants in the family.
  • “Stand, and Be Recognized” – a draft dodger visits an old friend. Line I liked, “Though certainly I knew as I went what I’d learned in coming home, that you cannot be haunted by ghosts of your choosing” (p 186).
  • “Ralph the Duck” – a security officer taking college classes rescues a co-ed from an attempted suicide.
  • “Dog Song” – a judge lies in a hospital room trying to remember the accident that put him there.
  • “One More Wave of Fear” – a family is plagued by squirrels in the attic.
  • “The World Began with Charlie Chan” – a late night talk radio host bullies people until a blast from his past rattles his chain.
  • “Extra Extra Large” – Brothers try to grow up. “We sat, not eating, to watch our father try to chew what amounted to everything we could offer him” (p 244).
  • “The Wicked Stepmother” – a librarian writes to her brother about their father’s new wife.
  • “Folk Tales” – A man remembers a brief correspondence he had a child with Albert Einstein.
  • “Dream Abuse” – a man’s nightmares haunt his wife.
  • “The Page” – a tale so sad I can’t even write about it.
  • “Berceuse” – Does a woman regret not having kids after meeting her ex-husband’s son?

Author fact: Busch won the 1991 PEN/Malamud award for distinguished short fiction.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Frederick Busch: Too Good To Miss” (p 48).


August Ahead

My obsession with moving rocks has come to an end now that the big boys are playing in the backyard. This hopefully means I’ll scale back to just two fanatical activities: running and reading. Or reading and running. I wonder who will win out? I am in the last month of training before the half marathon, but here are the books planned for August:

  • Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. I have been able to read other books in the series in one to two days.
  • Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell – in honor of July being one of the best times to visit Sweden (listening as an audio book).
  • Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon by David Grann in honor of August being the driest month in the Amazon.
  • The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann in honor of August being Aviation month.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin in honor of Baldwin’s birth month (print & AB).
  • Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch in honor of Busch’s birth month (short stories).
  • Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich in honor of Columbia’s independence.

PS – on the eve of posting this I ran 7.93 miles. Why the .93? My calf/Achilles started to give me grief so I had to stop. Now I wonder if the running has a chance to catch the books?


Long Way From Home

Busch, Frederick. Long Way From Home.New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1993.

How to describe Long Way From Home? Part dark fairytale, part family drama, part commentary on mothers and adoption? All of the above. Each section of the book is separated by a familiar drawing of Mother Goose, looking quite witchy. It sets a subliminal tone. But, onto the plot: Pennsylvanian Sarah has been wanting to reach out to her biological mother for some time. An ad promising a possible reunion prompts her to abandon all common sense as well as her husband and son. Husband, Barrett, convinced he knows where she went, dumps five year old Stephen with his New York in-laws and sets off for the southwest. Meanwhile, biological mom Gloria is cooking up home remedy concoctions and getting ready to kidnap her new-found grandson. Each character is obviously searching for something other than the obvious. Each are on a self destructive path.
My one complaint? You don’t really get to know the characters well enough to understand their motives or really care. Except Stephen. Little five year old Stephen is exactly how you would expect a boy with a mentally unstable mother and a neutered father. Only grandmother Lizzie remains a solid, reliable presence in his life.

Line I liked, “You think you don’t leave a trace, she thought, and then you’re found” (p 42).

Reason read: August is Busch’s birth month. Nothing fancier than that.

Author fact: Frederick Busch was a New York man through and through. He was born there and died there.

Book trivia: Grandmother Lizzie Bean appears in two other Busch tales, Rounds (1979) and Sometimes I Live in the Country (1986).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Frederick Busch: Too Good To Miss” (p 48).