Greetings! I am back from my trip and have the following to relate. My Traveling Companion (henceforth known as The TC) always visits his hometown book store. This is a lovely bookstore with a robust Golf section and The TC likes to scope out product placement and see what his writing brethren are up to. I just love a bookstore and find no hardship in the visitation of them. On this particular Saturday, I did not see the need to put make up on, dress up or make any sort of effort at all. Do I need to tell you this was a huge mistake? Because who was in the back of the bookstore? Celia Rivenbark! The author whose book I was using as my Fodor’s guide! And I am here to tell you her manners are just as lovely as you would expect. Because when I rushed her, she did not bat an eye at the Insane Yankee Woman with the naked face and comfortable clothing. Nope. She was as gracious as she could be. So let this be a lesson to you all. Nowhere is safe. Make an effort. These are the Jen Words of Wisdom for the week. This week we have some jumping, a fierce love, a gem and some forgiveness, and some singing circus dwarfs.
Let us begin!
Steph has finished reading The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, by Naoki Higashida. “This book recently got a lot of buzz when David Mitchell (of Cloud Atlas fame) did press for it after its publication, because Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida translated it from Japanese. Why? Mitchell, who has a son with autism, states it plainly in his foreward: “The Reason I Jump was a revelatory godsend. Reading it felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head, through Naoki’s words.” And indeed, every page of this book is a revelation about Naoki’s inner world that reflected an entirely different way of being back at me. The writing is movingly simple and at times heartbreaking, and the book is so short that when I finished it, I went right back to the beginning and started again. Whether you or someone you are close to live with autism, this is a must-read and an incredible achievement.”
Sweet Ann has no words of wisdom this week. Maybe next week? Meanwhile this week she brings us her take on The Goldfinch by Donna Tart. “This is a beautifully written book that takes the reader on a journey that he or she will remember for a long time, not only for the story, but for the characters. Theo loves his mother and she loves him fiercely. So much so, that that you can feel it from the opening pages. Then there is a terrorist attack that alters Theo's life and carries him from living modestly with his mother to Park Avenue, Las Vegas, The Village and Europe. You will root and cheer for Theo and hope his life could have been easier. His childhood friend Andy will break your heart and Hobie, the antiques dealer who takes him in, will remind you of the good in people. His friend Boris on the other hand has a great heart coupled with quite an addiction problem that will have adult Theo on the adventure of his life. I greatly enjoyed this book but I did think it got slightly long winded at the end. I have enjoyed all of Donna Tartt's novels and I highly recommend them.
Jeanne. Back to two things at once. Thank goodness! “Sometimes I think the short story collection is the second cousin twice removed from the novel. But there are so many good collections and I had the great fortune to have The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg recommended to me by Greg Cowles. It is a gem and worth anyone’s reading time. With its seven stories about women who get into some kind of trouble and what they do to deal, I like the fast pace. These are stories to marvel at and are not so long you get tired of the women, but long enough for van den Berg to work the magic of her storytelling. I will be seeking out more such collections. On to Pat Conroy’s new memoir on audiobook, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son. Why would Peggy Peck from Georgia stay with Donald Conroy a Marine Corps Fighter Pilot from Chicago, who abuses and beats her and the seven kids they have? The author reads his own introduction and this serves to set the turbulent, emotional tone of the book. The rest of the memoir is capably narrated by Dick Hill. As the eldest, Conroy grows up worrying about his siblings and hating his father. When I think of Pat Conroy, I picture a young Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides in which he says, 'In New York I learned that I needed to love my mother and father in all their flawed, outrageous humanity, and in families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.' I am still thinking about this.”
While The TC was off doing Golfish Things in his Homeland, I was enjoying Love and Treasure the newest from Ayelet Waldman. Jack Wiseman is a tough New Yorker who is charged with guarding a train that was captured on the outskirts of Salzburg at the end of World War II. The train is filled with valuables taken from the Jews of Hungary before they were sent to Concentration Camps. Before he dies, Jack gives a mysterious necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie and asks her to return it to its rightful owner. Natalie soon finds herself immersed in a world of shady art dealers, suffragettes, Nazis and a family of singing circus dwarfs. This is a very rich story told over the entire course of the twentieth century. It comes out in April and I cannot recommend it highly enough.