Hello! And welcome to the Mother’s Day edition of You Are What You Read. This past weekend should have been my Aunt’s birthday, but she died of cancer at the ridiculous age of 62. The Cousins, whose mom this was, and I have been discussing how much we still miss her. Next month is the 10th anniversary of my own mother’s death at the also ridiculously young age of 66, and also from cancer. We don’t know that this is something you ever fully recover from. This Wednesday while I was picking up some dinner things at the Whole Foods, a salesperson who was stocking shelves looked at me and asked me if I wanted to look at some scarves for my mother for the upcoming ‘special day’. The grief came flooding back in waves as if she had left the planet yesterday. So my thought for this week is if you are blessed enough to have your mom with you, take the time to thank her for ALL of it. This includes the nagging about standing up straight, making your bed and cleaning up after yourself, as well as the good stuff. Because really isn’t it a mother’s job to civilize you and make sure you don’t embarrass yourself? Sorry, sometimes nagging is necessary. A few flowers, a delightfully tiny package, maybe a lovely meal and a card would also not be remiss. Really just a drop when you consider all that she did for you. What if your mom is not with you? Honor her in some way that would please her. As for me, I try to honor my mother and aunt by giving blood every 56 days. I like to think I may be buying someone else’s mom a little more time on the planet. For your information, the Red Cross Donor Center in Norwalk will be open tomorrow from 8:00 to 1:30. I am sure they would love to see you. I have no idea what my Mother’s Day will look like but I am sure both boys will rise to the occasion. Won’t you, Boys? Boys? Boys? Whatever, this week we have New Jersey, some magic, the whole wide world, beach reading trifecta, a memory, some letters, Tudor TV Time and Lila! And of course we have a Mom Worthy Playlist!
Let us begin!
Abby is reading a real staff favorite that should come with a box of Kleenex. “I have almost finished The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs. I’ve stopped short because the foreshadowing in the title and narrative is so heartbreaking, I need more time before I’m ready for it to end. The author, Jeff Hobbs, was Rob’s college roommate and witness to some of the pivotal decisions Rob made. He clearly has an emotional stake in the story and does a beautiful job sharing Rob’s story. This biography introduces us to Robert Peace, known as Rob. Rob was born and raised in urban northern New Jersey to a mom devoted to his success and a dad with a keen, inquisitive mind and an illegal way of paying the bills. By all accounts, Rob was a sponge for knowledge. It’s not just that he was intellectually gifted; his diligence in quenching his enormous curiosity set him apart and what he achieved educationally is beyond what most of us could imagine. Exposed to violence, drugs, and a culture unsure of how to deal with his gifts, Rob created a mental and physical shield to protect himself from his friends, neighbors, and even family. It’s painful to think about the end of this book as I creep forward. In moving slowly, I want to believe I can delay what I already know.”
Have you all met James? He can be found running around the building making all our technology behave. Here’s his take on A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. “I never found myself relating to the characters. In as much time as it takes to explain the legal moves of the pieces on a chess board (maybe excluding the pawn’s en passant), you develop a solid understanding of the proclivities of the main characters. That said, what kept me turning pages in bed rather than going to the gym was learning more about the world in which they live and how that world and the actions the characters take within it put the characters in positions that produce genuinely interesting interactions. Despite their archetypical nature, the story progresses quite rapidly with plenty of intrigue and surprise. I can’t seem to remember what first prompted me to add A Darker Shade of Magic to my ‘to read’ shelf but I’m glad I did.”
Barbara M All over the globe. “I started reading Sasha Martin’s book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness because it was about food but it turned out to be more than just about food. It’s about a highly unusual family, some might call it dysfunctional, who suffered through trying times and yet who somehow stayed together. At a certain point in her life Martin decided to ‘cook the world‘ to reconcile the randomness of her childhood and connect it to the cultures of the world through food. She started a blog in which she cooked a representative food from every country starting with “A” for Afghanistan and ending with “Z” for Zambia. Her blog is filled with wonderful stories and recipes just waiting to be tried. This is a story that begins sadly but which ends happily.”
Steph is beach ready this week. “Based on Virginia’s recommendation last week, I read The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. Great fun read! Despite being one of those crazy tech-loving millennials, I still loved the commentary on how technology might be taking over our lives and our jobs just a wee bit too much, as well as all the crazy fashion anecdotes. Whether you look at Instagram a million times a day or have no idea what Instagram is—and whether you wait anxiously for the September issue each year or don’t know why September is so important—it’s the perfect beach book. This brings my 2015 beach book trifecta to The Knockoff, China Rich Girlfriend, and The Royal We. Happy Summer!” As an aside, when you see Steph make sure you congratulate her on getting her MLS this weekend. Great job Steph!
The Always Fabulous Babs B has finished Memory Man by David Baldacci. “In his latest thriller, Baldacci introduces Amos Decker, who is unlike anyone you've read before. He is an ex-football player and a highly decorated ex-cop. While playing football, Amos suffered a horrendous blow to his head and almost died. The injury resulted in a condition of having a memory where he forgets nothing. When his wife and daughter are brutally murdered, he becomes a shattered man. Amos is called in by the police department to help solve the murder of some students and teachers at the town's high school. Baldacci does a great job of keeping the reader guessing as to who the actual person is behind these horrendous murders. I have to say the plot was one of the most bizarre I have ever read, but I couldn't put the book down. Great job Mr. Baldacci!”
Pat T is reading with the weekend in mind. I’ll let her explain. “Last week I was fortunate to come upon the book, A Letter to My Mom, by Lisa Erspamer which is perfect for Mother's Day! This book is filled with the personal reflections from sons and daughters about their love, gratitude and admiration for their mothers. A few of the lessons learned and poignantly written about in these epistles are; believe in yourself, be brave and responsible, communicate, value hard work, the importance of forgiveness and independence, selflessness, how to deal with loss, sickness and be happy. In one letter a son elegantly writes ‘A good parent curates reality for their children. They gather up all of the good stuff; all of the knowledge, opportunity, existential wonderfulness and more and they say, here's what the world has to offer - go enjoy it!’ This book captures the joy, heartache, fun, sacrifice and most of all the loving connection between mother and child. A true tribute to mothers!”
The Always Delightful Pat S is having some good old fashioned Tudor TV Time with Wolf Hall. “Have you been watching the PBS series Wolf Hall? If you have missed it, make sure to catch it on DVD because it is stunning! Based on Hilary Mantel's award winning books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Wolf hall is an amalgam of both books. Taking place in the early part of the reign of Henry VIII, the story line is Henry's quest for divorce from his wife Catherine of Aragon, and attempt to marry again with a woman who can deliver him a healthy son. When Rome proves implacable to divorce, Henry is moved to separate from the church, and establish his own; the Church of England. But who helped Henry arrange these monumental changes? In comes Thomas Cromwell, the ‘Fixer’. Historically Cromwell has been portrayed as a Machiavellian creature, moving people and situations around like pieces on a chessboard. However, in this production the whole tale is told through Cromwell’s eyes and this is a thoughtful, careful and more sensitive man. Mark Rylance as Cromwell is simply brilliant in his performance, imbuing a raised eyebrow with a world of intent. Damien Lewis, of recent Homeland fame, creates a Henry VIII whose ego is more fragile and beset with anxiety than previous depictions. And Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn is quite simply hateful, marvelously heartless and self-serving to the bitter end! The entire production is physically exquisiteand each week I find myself drawn back into the sixteenth century. This is a surefire hit for a history buff, or anyone who enjoys very fine acting.”
Laura is done with Lila by Marilyn Robinson. “The story begins as Lila, at 4 years old, is purposely locked out of her family's shack in rural Iowa and has to spend the night, all alone, in the crawl space under the front steps. At that young age she innocently reasons and accepts her fate though she knows for certain that she is scared of the woman and man in that shack and also frightened of being inside the shack itself. Providence occurs when Doll, a vagrant that travels town to town in search of work kidnaps Lila from under the porch and raises her as best she can given her very limited means. The story's narrative shifts to Lila as a grown young woman who is wandering alone. Lila meets and marries the local pastor after a brief courtship. While pregnant with the his child, Lila’s past churns into her conscience and haunts the story. What happened to Doll, what happened to Lila and why were those memories suppressed? Lila is a wonderful story about human existence and the acceptance of its many forms. Robinson's narrative is challenging. But, if you take the time to absorb her phrasing, and her use of flashbacks that pop seamlessly in and out of Lila's daily thoughts, you will be rewarded. Give yourself a break and do not read it quickly. This story is to be savored."
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named. I know you join me in wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day! What’s good this week Pats? “This week we celebrate Mother’s Day. It should come as no surprise that my own mother played a whole lot of music when I was growing up. She would let us play her albums on the giant beast we called an entertainment system. It was the kind of stereo system that measured about five feet across and weighed no less than a thousand pounds. It included a stackable turntable so five or more albums could play consecutively. Automatic record changing was pretty high tech back in the day and I played that thing all the time. So in honor of all those mothers who let their children play with their music, I thought I’d bust out the vinyl and the 8-tracks and pull together a little playlist that my own mom would enjoy. Now, say hi to your mother for me.”