December 2012 was a decidedly difficult month. I don’t mind admitting it was stressful and full of ups and downs. How else can I describe a period of time that contained mad love and the quiet urge to request freedom all at once? A month of feeling like the best thing on Earth and the last person anyone would want to be with? I buried myself in books to compensate for what I wasn’t sure I was feeling. And I won’t even mention the Sandy twins. But wait. I just did.
- The Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Katie Singer ~ in honor of all things Hanukkah. This was by far my favorite book of the month.
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner ~ in honor of Iowa becoming a state in December. This was a close second.
- The Tattered Cloak and Other Novels by Nina Berberlova ~ in honor of the coldest day in Russia being in December. I read a story every night.
- Big Mouth & Ugly Girl by Carol Joyce Oates ~ in honor of Oates being born in December. I was able to read this in one sitting.
- The Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan ~ in honor of December being one of the best times to visit India
- Rosalind Franklin: Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox ~ in honor of Franking being born in December
- Billy by Albert French ~ in honor of Mississippi becoming a state in December
- Apples are From Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins ~ in honor of Kazakhstan gaining its independence in December.
In an attempt to finish some “series” I read:
- Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol 3 by Giorgio Vasari (only one more to go after this, yay!)
- Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
For audio here’s what I listened to:
- The Galton Case by Ross MacDonald ~ this was laugh-out-loud funny
- Bellwether by Connie Willis ~ in honor of December being Willis’s birth month
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing here’s what I read:
- Drinking with Men: a Memoir by Rosie Schaap
And here’s what I started:
- Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws
For fun: Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep.
Singer, Katie. The Wholeness of a Broken Heart. New York: Riverhead Books, 1999.
This is a novel driven by character development and dependent on the past. It tells the life story of Hannah starting when she was ten years old. On the surface she is a girl growing up, becoming a woman, and struggling with a rapidly unraveling relationship with her once adoring mother. Digging deeper it is the story of several generations of women, each with her own trials and tribulations. Wrapped around all of them is their Jewish culture, their history of survival (the Holocaust, emigrating to America). Chronologically, the story moves like waves across the water. Each wave is a different generation and all of their stories wash over Hannah as the proverbial shore. The voices from the “Other World” are a little hokey but these ghosts are necessary vehicles for bringing out the truth the living characters can’t face.
Favorite lines: “My happiness spouts out of my ears, out of my skin” (p 32). What a great image. More lines, “He has a grin so full of dirt, a casket it could cover” (p 50), and “A woman can carry the whole world” (p 123).
Reason read: December is a time of many different holidays. One that I haven’t given much thought to is Hanukkah. I decided to read The Wholeness of a Broken Heart to honor that religion.
Author fact: I normally skim the acknowledgement section except when it comes to new writers. I like to see who they thank and why. Singer has an interesting thank you list. According to her she sustained her writing “primarily by house-sitting.” I found it amazing that she was able to house-sit for 21 different people. I also like that she thanks the reference department at the Santa Fe Public Library. Rock on. Oh, and one more fact – Singer is a pretty cool jewelry maker. I didn’t dare request a price sheet!
Book trivia: The title of the book comes from a Yiddish proverb, “there’s nothing more whole than a broken heart.”
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “The Jewish American Experience” (p 132).
December is a mixed bag. Kisa and I aren’t traveling anywhere (I think we did enough of that over the summer). We’ll get the tree today. I’ll spend the weekend humming Christmas tunes and decorating the crap out of the house. Not much else is planned except a lot of books, books, books. For starters I am reading a lot of continuations:
- Brush with Death by Elizabeth Duncan ~ a final book in the continuation of the series I started last month.
- The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan ~ this finishing the Good Thief series I started in October.
- Lives of the Painters… by Giorgio Vasari ~ this is the third (and penultimate) book in the series started in October
- Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers ~ this continues the series started with The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club…
Confession: a bunch of these books aren’t “series” per se. But, because they continue a story (same characters, continuation of plot) I wanted to read them in order, especially Chris Ewan.
For the honor of all things December:
- The Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Katie Singer ~ in honor of Hanukkah
- Women of the Raj by Margaret Macmillan ~ in honor of December being a really good time to visit India
- The Tattered Cloak by Nina Berberova ~ in honor of the coldest day in Russia (12/31/76)
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegman ~ in honor of Iowa becoming a state in December
For the Early Review Program for LibraryThing I’m back to nonfiction: Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap (I remembered her last name by thinking Schnapps). This looks really interesting because it isn’t someone’s sob story memoir about being an trapped and pathetic alcoholic.
And, lastly audio – I am planning to drive to work to the tune of Ross Macdonald’s The Galton Case.
So, there is it. Ten books. Ambitious of me, I know. The way I look at it I have ten days of vacation coming up with barely anything to do. I want to spend a great deal of time reading if nothing else.