Thursday, July 30, 2009

Invincible Louisa

I went to the library today and picked up my copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Actually, the book I got is the full Trilogy that includes Little Women, Little Men and Jo's Boys all in one volume. I'm only familiar with the first one so I'm exciting to see all three gathered together.

Then, just to make it interesting, I also picked up a copy of "Invincible Louisa - The Story of the Author of Little Women" by Cornelia Meigs. I was a little wary about how much I'd be able to get into the read since it was located over in the Juvenile section. But once I got started with it I thought, Holy Cow! This book is intended for KIDS??? The vocabulary and the complexity of the sentences seems WAY beyond what most 8th graders would read. So I don't have to worry about it being over simplified. Not sure yet what I think of this particular biographer's writing style. Still, I think it will be fun to first learn more about the life of Louisa May Alcott before I dig into our August choice.

Thanks so much, Mimi, for getting me started down this path. The last two books I've read have been Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. While they have been absolute page turners I could barely put down, I am definitely ready to move away from mayhem and into classics!

Photo Credit

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quick. Who is Jo March?

I remember when I first read that opening line of an Anna Quindlen essay (and isn’t that a great essay title?) While I’m pretty sure my Dh did not know immediately there was no question for me. In fact, I posit that most women considered Jo their favorite, I think that we do relate to Meg, Beth, and Amy as well. And, who can forget poor Joey on Friends (that's a line we quote often in our house)?

I remember several of the adventures of the March girls (although, not quite what got Amy into trouble, thanks Alana) and have very clear flashes of reading it, but none of them are in my adulthood. Therefore, I was thinking about wanting to re-read the book. I think that I’d understand a lot more of the political interactions (especially after having read Geraldine Brooks’ March) find moments I remember with a grin, and maybe figure out why Jo made the marriage decision she did.

So, as we approach the Dormition fast (when I like to pick up a classic) and being asked to choose the August book*, I thought I’d throw down the gauntlet and propose that anyone who wants to read Little Women with me and I’ll post some discussion questions along the way. I’ll start over the weekend, come join me in the March parlor. And, did you answer the question correctly?

*this will be crossposted.

(photo credit)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Crazy For The Storm

I just finished one of the most compelling books I've ever encountered.

It is Crazy For the Storm - A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad.

In this book, Ollestad alternates chapters between the story of the plane crash that he was the lone survivor of at age 11 with stories of his growing up that prepared him for the grueling climb down that ice mountain, the experiences that helped him stay alive.

He describes his dad as a larger than life, highly charismatic figure who pushed him hard to excel at surfing, skiing, hockey - all sorts of physical stuff. Norm Ollestad Sr. pushed his son way further than I as a mother ever could have tolerated. But who is to say how much is too much?

With clear prose that never sugar coats a moment of any of the incidents he describes, "Little Norm" - as he was dubbed growing up, paints amazing word pictures of his early life on Topanga Beach, near Malibu CA in the 70's. He offers glimpses into the life of the surfer culture at a time in history before eminant domain and government regulations changed the California landscape.

Then, in February 1979, in a small Cessna his dad had chartered to take them to go to the awards ceremony for a Ski Race championship that little Norman had just won, they hit the side of a mountain. The pilot, and Normans father, were killed on impact. Little Norman and his dad's girlfriend were both injured, but alive. His depiction of getting down off that mountain is burned into my brain.

The story of the trip young Norman took with his dad to Mexico the previous summer is also told with such riveting images I almost feel as if I was right along with them, slogging through the mud when they got stuck, feeling the salt on my skin at the beach.

This is an amazing book.

It raised so many questions for me.

How far should a parent push a child to do things he or she does NOT want to do if the parent believes it will ultimately be good for the kid?

How far does one parent allow another parent to discipline if (as is often the case) the two have different views on parenting styles?

Why do women stay with men who hit them?

In what ways have things my parents done or not done shaped the way I chose to parent my own kids? How much of that would I change now if I could?

To what extent am I willing to endure physical pain or fear in order to experience bliss or accomplishment on the other side?

What things have I missed out on because I was NOT willing to endure pain or fear?

This is hands down one of the best books I've sampled for a long, long time.

Not only is it a riveting story - his skill with words is amazing. I am convinced that Norman Ollstad would be a good writer telling any tale. But unfolding THIS story, his story, was nothing short of amazing as far as I'm concerned.

I hope he keeps writing.

But whether he does or not, he's given me much to think about.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where were we??

Hey fellow page nibblers, how's your summer reading coming along? I must admit in the mad rush to finish up my job I totally lost track of what our agreed reading schedule was or even who picks next.

What are you guys reading now?

Here is what I've picked up and what I am recommending for whenever my pick happens to be... The Gursney Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I'm about half way through it right now and am finding it to be an absolutely delightful book.

It starts off giving the impression it would be a quick easy read, just a bit of whimsy between some of the more serious fare I had been slogging through. But as I read on I found there are moment of real substance and things that gave me pause to ponder along with plenty of chuckles and one or two outright belly laughs.

Have any of you read this one? I'd love to talk to you about this book!