books i read last month...

(oops...in all the vacation hubbub, i forgot to take pictures of a couple books...had to grab the cover images from amazon)

1. the floodmakers by mylene dressler
this book is about the impending death of parents who are larger than life - a famous playwright and his ex-pro-golfer wife - and how badly their adult children are dealing with this uncharacteristic decline. the story mainly takes place during a long weekend at the family's austere beach house in texas. the setting and cool dialog gave me such a feeling of sparse emptiness (maybe even under-stimulation?) that it was hard to get to know the characters, much less actually end up liking any of them very much.

2. barnacle love by anthony de sa
i really liked the first section of this book - about a young man (manuel) who runs away from his controlling mother, abusive priest and a dead-end life in a portuguese fishing village to become a sailor like his dead father. after a few sea-related adventures, manuel ends up in canada and works at establishing a new life for himself and his new family. abruptly, the next section of the story is told from the point-of-view of manuel's 6-year-old son antonio and the rest of the book is GRIM. manuel is trying to fit in and succeed in this new country, but it seems like his ongoing failures have completely destroyed the optimistic young man I was rooting for in the first part of the book.

3. blue nights by joan didion
a few years ago, i read "the year of magical thinking" about the unexpected death of joan's husband and found it deeply moving. this was good too, but also so sad. this book deals with her relationship with her seriously ill daughter, quintana roo, who died two years after her husband's death. joan shares with us her grief, about not realizing what being a mother would mean to her life/lifestyle and about how she never imagined outliving both her husband and daughter. there is a passage where she describes having some recent medical issues, but not knowing who to put on her emergency contact information that was particularly moving.

an excerpt: "When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them. As the pages progressed it occurred to me that their actual subject was not children after all, at least not children per se, at least not children qua children: their actual subject was this refusal even to engage in such contemplation, this failure to confront the certainties of aging, illness, death. This fear."

4. illumination night by alice hoffman
one summer in college i worked a dry cleaners with A LOT of afternoon downtime, so i decided to read all of kurt vonnegut's books...and when i ran out of those (they are quick reads) i moved on to another prolific writer: alice hoffman. alice is the queen of magical realism...this book not so much, but there is an element of the fantastical in this martha's vineyard tale - with an old lady who thinks she can fly, a "giant", a wild teenage girl, a wise 4-year-old...to name a few characters. luckily, i didn't remember all the twists and turns in the story...and it was engaging enough to make me forget that i was stuck at the airport!

5. running for women by kara goucher
i probably should have read this book earlier - not a week and a half before my race on sunday! i didn't realize that the author (duluth, MN native and top US marathoner) kara goucher was the voice encouraging me at the end of my runs on my Nike GPS app until i got to the section of the book were she talked about being on the Nike Oregon Project. duh! kara made me feel better about my short strides and partially helped with my right foot going numb issue. luckily, this book has tons of practical advice that i'm taking forward with me to the race and beyond. and it's really not 100% about running, but also about finding a balance in your life to make room for your inspiring passion - be it running, fly fishing, etc.

6. rant: the oral biography of buster casey by chuck palahniuk
this is so sad, but i didn't realize that i had read this book until i was more than a few pages into it! not that i don't love chuck palahniuk's writing...some people don't, but i do...it must have had another cover. this book is kinda brutal, but not in a way that makes you hate the main character...buster "rant" casey...he is smart and did what he had to do in this strangely familiar future world of super viruses. i think that some people don't like chuck's writing because he can expose how cruel humans can be to each other, but i always feel as though he gives readers deeply rich multidimensional characters and something to think about (with a dash of hope) at end of each novel.

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