Friday, July 28, 2017

Profusion of Tropical Life

I’ve never been on a boat smaller than a ferry or larger than a speedboat. Therefore, sailing from Long Island to Australia on a fifty five foot catamaran sailboat is probably something I’ll only ever read about. Reading this week’s challenge, travel memoir Black Wave by John and Jean Silverwood, pretty much ensures that.

Experienced sailors, John and Jean, set out to fulfill a life-long dream when they boarded their new sailboat, the Emerald Jane, along with their four kids (ages 14, 12, 7, and 3).

Encounters with pirates, John’s alcoholism, and shady dock dwellers were balanced out by amazing sunrises, swims with dolphins, and lessons only the sea could teach their children about navigation and hard work.

Little did they know their trip would be abruptly shattered by a coral reef near the Polynesian Islands. Jean tells the story from her perspective and astutely begins with the page-turning event of the journey – the shipwreck.

Knowing how the trip ends, but not the outcome, I was turning pages at a furious clip.  I found the description of the trip’s preparation fascinating and enjoyed (vicariously) the idea of living on a sailboat and living off the fruits of various islands. (Homeschooling and sharing close quarters with five other people seems less appealing.) 

Despite the nail-biting disaster that befalls them, the book does have a happy ending – a must for an armchair traveler that doesn’t have the solace of a pina colada to soothe frayed nerves. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Braiding Sweetgrass

Botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about humanity’s damaged relationship to the natural world in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.

“If time could run backward, like a film in reverse, we would see this mess reassemble itself into lush green hills and moss-covered ledges of limestone. The streams would run back up the hills to the springs and the salt would stay glittering in underground rooms.” 

“Never take the first plant you find, as it might be the last—and you want that first one to speak well of you to the others of her kind.” 

“The land is the real teacher. All we need as students is mindfulness.” 

“We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads up high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of the earth’s beings.” 

Just as I finished reading Kimmerer’s book, I came across this article which only reinforces her thesis. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer Reads

The high temperature lately has been 77 degrees, which counts as sweltering in the Seattle area. However, the sun is shining. Brightly! Consistently! So midway through July, I’ve conceded it’s summer.

These books have just become available on my Overdrive wait list, and so by default, comprise a summer reading list of sorts. Whether historical or contemporary, fiction or memoir, they all captured my attention and provided the most essential quality of any good summer read – escape.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Who thought this was a good idea? By Alyssa Mastromonaco

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

We were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Need a second (or fifth) opinion?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Tell the Wolves

I suspect this week’s challenge intended for me to read a romance of the bodice-ripper variety. However, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a romance of the not-a-dry-eye-in-the-house variety.

It’s 1986. Greta and her sister June are having their portrait painted by their uncle Finn. When Finn’s farewell kiss on the top of the head causes June to wash her hair three times, the reader is reminded of the early, fearful days of the AIDS epidemic.

Finn dies. June mourns the loss of not only Finn, but their trips to the Cloisters and afternoons spent listening to his Requiem recordings.  

When Finn’s prized Russian teapot shows up on her doorstep, June discovers Finn had kept his relationship with Toby a secret during all those visits to his (actually, their) apartment in the city.  
Toby and June begin meeting to share stories of Finn and to help one another through their loss. As Toby’s own health begins to deteriorate, the whole family must come to terms with the man Finn loved.

Carol Rifka Brunt captures perfectly not only June’s teenage rebellion and sadness, but the complicated relationships that make up a family. Through Finn’s loss, she begins to realize her parents are people with feelings and dreams, not just stressed-out accountants. She learns more of her mother’s sacrifices and the artistic gifts she shares with her brother. Most importantly, she learns she doesn’t have a monopoly on love.