It’s been a most satisfying book month, my friends. I was in charge of choosing our read for book club this month, so I gave the ladies a bunch of desert-themed options. They opted for Animal Dreams, and then I ended up being the only person who read the book from cover to cover. I also read one of the back-up options, Refuge, which, as you’ll see from my review below, I absolutely loved.
There are few things worse than realizing you’ve just spent your time reading a crappy book, right? Well, luckily this was not one of those months.
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Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
Three-line review: This complicated story weaves loss, self-discovery and environmental catastrophe into a tangled plot line when Codi returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father. Kingsolver did an excellent job with character development and I really took to Codi, but the story felt weaker in this book than in her others. And, while I appreciate how she wrote the intricacies and difficulties of a small town into the plot, I also felt some aspects of the book were tied up too easily at the end.
“I just stood still for a minute, giving Hallie’s and my thoughts their last chance to run quietly over the wires, touching each other in secret signal as they passed, like a column of ants. You couldn’t do that kind of thing at international rates.”
“In high school, Hallie and I were beneath Trish’s stratum of normal conversation. I remembered every day of those years, no lapses there. Once in the bathroom I’d heard her call us the bean-pole sisters, and speculate that we wore hand-me-down underwear. I wondered how the rules had changed. Had I come up in the world, or Trish down? Or perhaps growing up meant we put our knives away and feigned ignorance of the damage.”
“The color brown, I realized, is anything but nondescript. It comes in as many hues as there are colors of earth, which is commonly presumed infinite.”
“Hallie once pointed out to me that people worry a lot more about the eternity after their deaths than the eternity that happened before they were born. But it’s the same amount of infinity, rolling out in all directions from where we stand.”
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Three-line review: I pulled this young adult book off my husband’s classroom bookshelf because the cover intrigued me, and the engaging story made it easy to read quickly. Based on a true story about one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, A Long Walk to Water follows the story of Salva from the day he leaves his village amid gunfire in 1985 to his return to Sudan in 2009 from his new home in the United States to help provide drinking water in the country he left behind. This easy-to-read book covers a lot of time in a decent amount of detail and proves through the story of just a single person that there is a lot of good out there, even when it feels like the world is riddled with bad news.
Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
Three-line review: We picked this book up years ago at the bookstore because of the cover and the multi-media aspect of a story told through ephemera, snapshots and links to YouTube videos, and I spent a long time pouring over every page, looking at the details when I finally decided to read it this month. The snippets of instant messages, performance brochures, scraps of paper and photos easily tells a story that words normally would, and I found myself paying close attention to everything so I didn’t miss an important part of the plot. But while I enjoyed the way the story was told, the end wrapped up way too easily and quickly, and there were definitely holes in the plot line that left me unsatisfied.
The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
Three-line review: This quirky children’s book follows Daywalt’s book The Day the Crayons Quit, and it is just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. Each crayon writes about his adventures on a postcard, and the details on these cards are wonderful; the cancellation stamps, for example, are especially fun. I giggled out loud while reading this book, and immediately passed it to my husband to read when I was done.
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams
Three-line review: This book is exceptionally pure, undeniably beautiful and one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Williams’ prose is uncomplicated, and she manages to do what so many writers try to do: Simply say what needs to be said, leaving interpretation up to the reader without becoming muddled in the words. Combining the story of her mother’s fight against cancer with the rising of the Great Salt Lake and the subsequent loss of a bird sanctuary, WIlliams weaves a memoir of loss, growth and exploration, both personally and in the physical world.
Favorite lines (there were so many that I just picked out a few of them):
“After supper, we would spread out our sleeping bags in a circle, heads pointing to the center like a covey of quail, and watch the Great Basin sky fill with stars. Our attachment to the land was our attachment to each other.”
“In the long run I didn’t think one month would matter. In the short run, it mattered a great deal. The heat of the sandstone penetrated my skin as I laid on the red rocks. Desert light bathed my soul.”