Sarah, Plain and Tall

MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

Reason read: for the fun of it (because I wanted something super quick to read).

Book summary (taken from inside cover):When their father invites a mail-order bride to come live with them in their prairie home, Caleb and Anna are captivated by her and hope that she will stay.” Not exactly. Widower dad places and advertisement for a wife and Sarah answers. One of the first things she tells them is that she is “plain and tall.” What follows is delightful story about the lengths people will go to in order to banish loneliness. Anna and Caleb are hungry for a new mother and want to see their father happy again so they welcome a stranger with open arms. But, probably the most heartbreaking sacrifice is made by Sarah herself. She gives up the coast of Maine and the ocean for the prairies of the Midwest. I have no idea how she does it.
As an aside, I was glad to learn this is the first book in the Witting Family series. When I finished Sarah, Plain and Tall I didn’t want to leave them, especially Sarah.

Edited to add quote: “There is something to miss no matter where you are” (p 42). How could I forget putting this in the review? I love this!

Author fact: MacLachlan won a Newbery Medal for Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Book trivia: Sarah, Plain and Tall was made into a movie starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken.

Nancy said: Nancy said Sarah, Plain and Tall was good for both boys and girls.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 22).


January’s Time

This year, more than ever, I am struck by time’s marching; the relentless footfalls of days and weeks passing by. I know that is mortality speaking, but it rings eerie in my mind nonetheless. Not helping the doom and gloom is the first book on my list, On The Beach by Nevil Shute. I wanted a different book from Shute but there isn’t a library local enough to loan it to me.

Here are the planned books for January 2018:

Fiction:

  • On The Beach (AB) by Nevil Shute (previously mentioned) – in honor of Shute’s birth month.
  • Clara Callan by Richard Wright – in honor of Sisters Week being in January.
  • Tea From an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan – in honor of January being Science Fiction Month.

Nonfiction:

  • Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals by David Laskin – in honor of January 26th being Spouses’s Day.
  • War Child: a Child Soldier’s Story by Emmanuel Jal – in honor of the end of the Sudan civil war.
  • Travellers’ Prelude: Autobiography 1893-1927 by Freya Stark – in honor of Freya Stark’s birth month.
  • Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman (AB) – in honor of Tuchman’s birth month.

Series Continuations:

  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle by Dorothy Gilman – started in September in honor of Grandparents’ Day.

For the Early Review program for LibraryThing:

  • Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi, PhD (finishing).
  • Pep Talk for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo by Grant Faulkner (also finishing).

Spring Sprung Titles

What to say about April? I ran my fastest 10k while ill (go figure). I met two new runners and may have convinced someone to at least try. I don’t know where this acceptance to run with others is coming from. To share a conversation I had with someone: I asked where she runs. She replied she doesn’t have my pace, “nowhere near it” were her exact words. I answered I don’t have that pace all the time either. Me & my pace visit from time to time but we don’t make it a thing. She laughed and I saw myself ten years ago talking to someone who face-times with friends while running. I worried about her relationship with pace. But, this blog is turning into a thing different from reading.

So, without further ado, here are the finished books:

Fiction:

  • Diplomatic Lover by Elsie Lee – read in one day
  • Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez – read in two days
  • Celibate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard – read in four days (this book annoyed me and I kept having to put it down)

Nonfiction:

  • Lost Upland: stories of the Dordogne Region by W.S. Merwin – confessional: DNF (bored, bored, bored)
  • Coming into the Country by John McPhee
  • Henry James: the Untried Years by Leon Edel
  • Another Part of the Wood by Kenneth Clark – this was cheeky!

Series continuations:

  • “F” is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton (I’m calling this a continuation even though I read “A” a long time ago.)
  • Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons (AB + print so I could finish on time – today!)
  • Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves – another quick read (finished in four days)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul

Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work

Gottman, John M. and Nan Silver. The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work. New York: Harmony Books, 2015.

Reason read: I have no idea.

I was hoping to be struck by lightning with this book. My marriage is pretty solid but I could always use improving in the relationship department (who couldn’t?). So I was a little worried when the first piece of advice sounded something like this, and I’m paraphrasing: if you can accommodate each other’s “crazy” side and handle it with caring, affection and respect, your marriage can thrive. Talk about a duh moment. Of course ANY relationship is going to benefit from caring, affection and respect. The advice gets better and as a result I do see my relationship differently. If I had had more time with the book I would have tried some of the quizzes and exercises. Maybe next time.


April Comes Quickly

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

Earthly Possessions

Tyler, Anne. Earthly Possessions. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1977.

This is a super quick read. The fact that it was a made-for-television movie back in the 90s should tell you something: really good but without prolonged drama; couldn’t make it to the big screen. Here’s the quick and dirty of the plot: Charlotte Emory is at the bank, waiting to clean out her savings so she can run away from her married life. She’s the bored housewife of a boring preacher. While waiting to change her whole life, suddenly it is changed for her. She gets caught up in a robbery and is taken hostage. Since her captor is practically half her age she isn’t exactly afraid of him, or the gun he waves in her face. Almost willingly Charlotte finds herself on a road trip with Jake Simms, Jr – demolition derby racer, escapee from jail, and father to his teenage girlfriend’s unborn child. The three make an interesting pair. Tyler’s writing is sharp and funny. She gives us alternating time frames, bouncing between Charlotte’s escape in present day and the past – as if to explain how Charlotte’s life ended up so complicated.

Lines I liked, “I tripped over a mustard jar big enough to pickle a baby” (p 6). Who thinks like that? Another one, “That prodding black nubbin in the hand of a victim of impulse” (p 49).

Reason read: June is the most popular month to get married in…and divorced in, too. I have no idea why.

Author fact: Tyler graduated from Duke University at the age of nineteen. Are you doing the math? If there were four years spent at Duke she would have entered college at the age of fifteen.

Book trivia: Earthly Possessions was made into a television movie in 1999 and starred Susan Sarandon as the bored housewife. I can picture that completely.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Marriage Blues” (p 161).


Naked to the Waist

Dark, Alice Elliott. Naked to the Waist. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Naked to the Waist is a compilation of six short stories with the title story being the last. While each story varies from the next there are a few underlying themes common to them all. All include women who are in relationships not easily defined. The relationships that surround them are slightly domineering.

“Interior Studio” – Two artists struggling to make ends meet; told from the point of view of the painter wife with a dominant writer husband.

“The Good Listener” – a writing teacher gets caught in a love triangle that turns into a love square.

“Plans for Plants” – a couple is moving apart. They don’t know each other anymore.

“The Comfortable Apartment” – an abused wife has the opportunity to leave her husband thanks to her sister…but does she?

“Buddy” – for me, this one was the most disturbing. A man takes his girlfriend’s puppy while she is in France for a funeral. He never wanted her to get a dog, and that’s all I’ll say about that one.

“Naked to the Waist” – Lucy is torn between wanting her best friend, a homosexual, to want her and wanting to move on with her life.

Telling lines, “She threw herself into love as though she were diving under water in at attempt to make herself disappear from the surface of the planet” (p 20), “She was coiled coolly around his mind” (p 92), It shocked him to see her alone, and he realized it was the first time he had observed her out of the range of his influence” (p 162″, and “This was my cue to placate him with one of our private games, and I did” (p 131).

As an aside, adultery is a common theme in Dark’s stories. I found it striking that when two different characters in two different stories want to know how their partners are getting away with the affair they ask the same questions, “how are you managing this?”

Reason read: November is National Writing Month and I’m honoring the short story this month.

Author fact: Dark also wrote In the Gloaming and Think of England both of which are on my list.

Book trivia: Naked to the Waist is made up of six short stories and oddly enough was not available in my area. I had to request it from Bangor, Maine.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…Is For Alice” (p 1).