Duke, Kim. A Fine Mess. Plymouth, MI: BHC Press, 2020.
Reason read: as part of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing I was selected to read and review Duke’s book.
The first word that comes to mind when reading A Fine Mess is chameleon. Depending on your mood, this book could be seen as trivial happy horse you-know-what or,if you are in a good mood, poignant and heartwarming. The good news is Duke acknowledges that in the title by calling A Fine Mess “little” and “odd.” Okay, so it is a lot odd at times.
Depending on your mood, you could see the colorful illustrations and photography as evocative and capable of inspiring heartfelt emotion. On another day you could be annoyed by the self-help journaling pages; declaring A Fine Mess as helpful as the pseudo-psychological quizzes you find in the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine. How Happy Are You? Take This Test To Find Out!
Depending on your mood, you could question what making fun of a sculpture has to do with breast cancer. You could question why Duke doesn’t bemoan the loss of hair or appetite or secure body image. On another day you could applaud her ability to make connections to before cancer and after cancer and her courageous ability to make sense of the randomness of the disease.
Depending on your mood, A Fine Mess could be a humorous gift to give a struggling friend or your worst enemy.
Either way, one thing is for certain. It will take you all of ten minutes to read. Whether you go back and read it again is entirely dependent on your mood.
As an aside, I want to ask Duke if her statement about hope was intentionally similar to the Emily Dickinson poem. That seemed a little coy, even if it was a play on words.
Kralik, John. A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life. New York: Harper, 2010.
My first “off schedule” read for 2012. Why? I was boarding a plane & heading across the country for a funeral. Flying + funerals = Frightened me lately. I needed something to distract me from the twelve plus hours we would be traveling. As for the who, what, where, when and why details I’ll leave them for another day and another place.
So, back to the book review. I chose A Simple Act of Gratitude because it looked like something I could devour on a cross-country flight. I was determined to start it on the east coast so that I could finish it and return it on the west coast. A Simple Act was that kind of book.
If you haven’t heard of this book the premise is simple: typical lawyer is losing his grip on the good life. He is going through a divorce, his company is failing and is about to be evicted, his girlfriend just broke up with him and his seven-year-old daughter has to sleep in his grungy, cramped, falling-apart apartment every time she comes to visit. He’s losing touch with friends and family because he has nothing good to say about anything or anyone. He’s even gaining weight. Then one day he has an epiphany and this is where I get a little confused. On the back of the book it describes how a thank you note from John’s ex-girlfriend inspires him to set out to write 365 thank you letters in a year, one for each day. That’s all well and good – to give the girlfriend credit – until you read page 17. On page 17 John is hiking alone on New Years Day when he is inspired by the memory of his grandfather and a story about a silver dollar and the moral of the story amounts to this, if you thank me for the silver dollar I just gave you another silver dollar will come your way. It’s that promise of “good things to come” that supposedly prompts John to write all those letters.
Regardless of who inspired John in the first place, the ex or the grandfather, amazing things do start to happen after John writes a few letters. It inspires him to write more and more and more. His life slowly starts to turn around. John’s journey to gratitude IS inspiring. He makes so many transformations you are prompted to put pen to paper yourself…just to see what happens.
Favorite lines, “I wanted to be more than another lawyer slinging hatred for a living” (p 13) and “I was way past the weirdness of writing a thank-you note to a cat lady” (p 58).
Sosienski, Shanti. Women Who Run. Emeryville: Seal Press, 2006.
This wasn’t on any “to read” list but it turned out to be just as important as any list book. I took Women Who Run with me to Baltimore which turned out to be the greatest strategy for the shortest flight I have ever been on. Less than an hour air time (each way) afforded me the luxury of quick chapter reads. I could start and stop without feeling disconnected. Since each chapter is “stand alone” and completely unrelated to the next one I could bounce around from story to story. I didn’t have to read them in order (and I didn’t). 16 different women (counting the author) have shared 16 different running stories. How they started running, when they felt they could officially call themselves runners, their biggest triumphs and their hardest-to-swallow defeats. These women recount the relationships they gained from running as well as the ones they lost; how running saved their lives and even, on some occasions, their souls. There are stories about how mothers juggle family life and how career women stay driven and how the lines blur when family and business are a part of their lives. There are stories of women driven by competition while others are driven by something more personal, something more spiritual. There are stories of women who society labels as “unlikely” runners yet run, they do. There are so many different stories I am willing to bet every reader will find a little of herself in one of them.