Bold Spirit

Hunt, Linda Lawrence. Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America. Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 2003.

Reason read: I think it’s ironic that I am reading my first book in honor of Just ‘Cause the same year I chose not to participate. But, there you have it. Another irony is that this year Just ‘Cause is not doing their walk in May. It’s in June.

On May 5th 1896 Helga Estby and her daughter, Clara, embark on a cross country journey on foot to raise money for their impoverished family. Everything about this journey is fraught with risk. Consider the facts. First, her home life: Helga has nine children she must leave in the care of her out-of work-husband. As a Norwegian, this is a scandalous decision simply because women do not leave their families for anything. Second, the “scheme”: a wealthy yet unknown sponsor with ties to the fashion industry is offering a reward of $10,000 if Helga can walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City in seven months. Helga knows very little about this benefactor and the trip will be extremely dangerous. In addition, although this unknown sponsor wants to prove the physical endurance of women, she has a few rules.

  1. Helga and her daughter may only start out with $5 a piece. All other income must be earned along the way. [They end of selling photographs of themselves and doing odd chores.]
  2. They must visit each state’s capital.
  3. They must acquire the signature of prominent politicians
  4. Once arriving in Salt Lake City, must don a “reform costume” otherwise known as a bicycle skirt. This was an effort to display the latest fashion – a dress that was several inches shorter to give women “leg freedom” and was considered quite scandalous.
  5. They could not beg for anything – rides, food, or shelter.
  6. They could not pay for rides.
  7. They had to arrive in New York by early December.

This sets the stage for Hunt’s Bold Spirit but what emerges is a story about courage and commitment. Unfortunately, because Helga Estby and her family were so ashamed of her venture when it was all said and done, very little evidence of her walk was properly preserved. Most everything was willfully destroyed. As a result Hunt has to rely on speculation to fill in the gaps. Language like “they were likely”, “perhaps”, “it is possible”, probably”, and “they might have” pepper the entire book.

Book trivia: I like the design of this book a great deal. The photography is wonderful, too.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Walk Right In” (p 250).


May I Read

I never recapped April nor predicted May. For the first time ever, April books are still being read. To be fair, the Lyndon Johnson series started in February so technically these leftovers are not specific either April nor May.

April was an oddball month in that my reading was all on the fly. I trained for another half marathon and that took a lot of my time. Not nearly as much as the full mara, but still…

Here are the Challenge books finished in April:

  • King Lear – Shakespeare (not scheduled)
  • Guernica – Van Hensbergen (not scheduled)
  • Grand Tour – Tim Moore
  • Green Thoughts – Eleanor Perenyi
  • Alice in Sunderland – Bryan Talbot
  • Considerable Town – M F K Fisher
  • Don’t Eat This Book – Morgan Spurlock

Here are the just for fun books:

  • Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – John Gottman
  • Spark Joy – Marie Kondo (not scheduled)

Here’s what on tap for May:

For the Early Review program through LibraryThing:

  • All the Rage by Martin Moran

To celebrate May:

  • Brilliant Orange: the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer by David Winner ~ in honor of the tulip festival in Holland
  • Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt ~ in honor of Just ‘Cause and their 60-mile walk (although this year it’s in June).
  • Jordan: Past & Present: Petra, Jerash & Amman by E. Borgia ~ in honor of Jordan gaining independence in the month of May
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn ~ in honor of Russia’s Victory Day (may 9th, 1945)
  • Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill ~ to celebrate Laos Rocket Day (already read – this took me less than a day)
  • Chosen, the by Chaim Potok ~ in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month (AB – already read)
  • Map of Another Town by MFK Fisher ~ to finished the Two Towns book started in April
  • Master of the Senate by Robert Caro ~ to finished the series started in February in honor of Presidents’ Day.

Wildwater Walking Club

Cook, Claire. The Wildwater Walking Club. New York: Voice, 2009.

This book was not on my list. Not indexed in Book Lust, More Book Lust or Book Lust To Go. It wasn’t on an Early Review list for LibraryThing. I didn’t request it from anyone, either. So. Here’s how I came to read this book. It just showed up on my doorstep. Just like that. Here’s the back story as far as I understand it: I have mentioned Just ‘Cause more than once in this blog (and even more in the other one) so, if you have been paying attention you know that Just ‘Cause is near and dear to my heart. It is a nonprofit organization that supports two different charities, the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden and the Massachusetts General Hospital Oncology Center. More organically, we are a group of women who walk 60 miles every year to raise money. Like I said, it’s very near and dear to my heart and soul. Along the 60 miles (over the course of three days) we women make amazing memories and cultivate fabulous friendships.

One such amazing friend calls herself “the other Heidi S” because there are two in the group. One Heidi is bad enough, but to have two, both with the same last initial….well, it’s an endless joke. This Heidi S and I *must* have spent some time talking books. There are so many different conversations that happen on the walk I can’t really be sure. But, this Heidi S sends Miss Stella Grace this book, The Wildwater Walking Club with no explanation. Completely out of the blue. I haven’t a clue. I really don’t remember having even the smallest of conversations about this book. We could have. I’m sure we did. Really, so much stuff is shared I can’t keep it all straight. (The one thing I do remember finding out is we both went to Pies on Parade for the first time last year…but that’s a story for another time.)

Anyway, in the mail arrives this cute package, tied up in brown string. It’s Claire Cook’s Wildwater Walking Club and I read it in three days. Bing Bang Boom Done. It’s cute. The plot is super simple. Noreen is a woman who just lost her job and her boyfriend all at once. Realizing she is a corporate has-been with no personal life and a little extra weight she decides to take up walking. Along the way she recruits two other women from her neighborhood. Before long they have formed a club, are planning trips and vandalizing the neighborhood together. Of course, it’s chick lit so you have to have a little man trouble called dating, a little mother grief and a lot of laughs. It’s a cute book from the woman who brought you Must Love Dogs (Okay everyone! Time for a collective “OH!).

I could relate to Noreen on a few levels. Her relationship with her mother is strained. She thinks mom is constantly comparing her marriage-less, childless life to her siblings (all married with children, all leading very full lives). Her job was all that she knew and until she was laid off she didn’t realize how much it was affecting her personal life. And the one thing I’ve always known, walking makes everything better on so many different levels.


“The Long Hill”

Teasdale, Sara. “The Long Hill.” The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale. Cutchogue, New York: Buccaneer Books, 1996. p 152.

“The Long Hill” made me laugh and scratch my head all at once. As an avid walker I know what it’s like to anticipate the crest of a hill, to look forward to arriving at the top, only to miss it. Not sensing the highest point defies logic. Surely one would know when he or she has reached it! You expect grandeur to be at the pinnacle. Sara just shrugs and says she might as well continue down.
But there is also contradiction to her poem. She describes the beaten track and yet the hem of her gown was getting caught on brambles. No wonder she missed the top. She was too busy trying to free her gown! And why wasn’t she walking the beaten track? Wouldn’t she has noticed the top of the long hill if she had been paying attention?

Reason read: another poem for National Poetry Month…

Author fact: Sara Teasdale writes a great deal about New York. I’ll be reading more of her material at a later date.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237). This poem marks the end of the chapter.


April ’12 is…

April is and will always be my WhatTheFukc month. It’s the last full month of Just ‘Cause training. It’s the month when I think I’m never walking enough despite hours on the treadmill. It’s the last full month of the semester at school. It’s the month when the animals students are doing stupid sh!t like hanging from water pipes and causing a major flood in their dorm. I kid you not. It’s the last truly cold month of the year. At least one can hope. It’s the last month I feel comfortable wearing knee high boots. For reading it’s an even more discombobulated month. April is National Poetry month so between the novels I’ll be reading poetry. It’s like a car stalling. I can’t explain it.

Anyway…here’s what I PLAN to read for the month of April. You know as well as I do I probably will stick to only 75% of this…
April is Alcohol Awareness month so I’m reading John Barleycorn by Jack London. April is also food month so I’ll be depressing myself with Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of an All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser. April happens to be National Humor month so I’m buzzing through The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. The Civil War started in April so I threw Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier on the list. I need to wrap up a couple of series I started in Janurary so The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien and These Happy Golden Yearsby Laura Ingalls Wilder are on the list. Last but not least I finally, finally got an Early Review book from LibraryThing: A Small Fortune by Rosie Dastgir. Oh. And there’s the random poem in between all that…

What else is April all about? Easter with the in-laws to talk about our upcoming trip to Hawaii. My sister’s birthday. It’s a big one. A jaunt to the theater with a good friend. A Red Sox game. Maybe a little cowbell in Vermont? Not sure.


March ’12 was…

March 2012 was huge for reading. I think that’s because some of the books took me a day or two to read. March was also the first month of training for Just ‘Cause. Whenever I talk about training to walk it sounds stupid. I mean really, who trains to put one foot in front of the other? I guess when you put those steps all together and come up with a total of sixty miles over the course of three days it all adds up. Anyway, training (such as it is) is going great. For the month of March I averaged six miles a day, every day. But, this blog is not about walking miles or not. It’s about books. Here’s the Lust list for March 2012:

  • A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in honor of African Writers month
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston in honor of Zora
  • Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder in honor of keeping on with the series
  • Up Country by Maxine Kumin (read in one afternoon) in honor of March being poetry month (April is the official one)
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte in honor of Literature month
  • Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose in honor of March having a “Hug a G.I.” day
  • The Fixer by Bernard Malamud in honor of Malamud passing in March
  • Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien in honor of keeping on with the Lord of the Rings series. I will admit I didn’t finish this.
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler in honor of crime month
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather in honor of another classic (this was, by far, my favorite read of the month)
  • Lawless Roads by Graham Green in honor of April being the best time to go to Mexico (obviously I jumped ahead a little)

I started an audio book (as is my tradition with trying to train and read at the same time) but the book I chose, Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman was so scratched I couldn’t get beyond disc one. Bummer. Also, for the third time in a row I didn’t receive the Early Review book I was awarded from LibraryThing. So I didn’t end up reading anything for LibraryThing. I was awarded a fourth book…we’ll see if it actually shows up.

So. There it is. The big list of books. Aside from Band of Brothers and Two Towers every other book was really short and easy to buzz through. I doubt April will be so kind.


February ’10 is…

Off the top of my head, I’m not sure what to call February besides another cold, cold month. I could get all giddy and self-absorbed in the fact that it’s my birth month (so maybe I should be reading something by me – ha), but that doesn’t seem to be all that productive. Besides, my published work would take all of two minutes to read! February is a visit with Mr. Richard Marx II (formally known as Mr. Bubblegum). We have a date in three weeks. February is more time with Dr. Ruth. No offense, but after this month I would like to think I’m on the road to recovery and will not need so much attention in that area in the future. I have started training for Just ‘Cause and have moved my feet over 50 miles so far.

I should point out the obvious. This is late. February has also started out as my month to be overextended in a big way. Not sure if that’s a good thing.

For books it has been and will be:

  • Company of Three by Varley O’Connor ~ in honor of February being National Theater Month. Okay, so if you can’t get there, read about it!
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin ~ in honor of Black History Month
  • Warriors Don’t Cry: a Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High by Melba Patillo Beals ~ in honor of Civil Rights month
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder ~ in honor of medical workers in Haiti right now.
  • Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences by Edward Tenner ~in honor of National Science month.

There is a rumor of another LibraryThing Early Review book. The publisher was nice enough to send me a thank you for reviewing the book, but until I actually have it in my hand I won’t be mentioning it here.