We are Water

From goodreads

In middle age, Anna Oh - wife, mother, outsider artist - has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Anna has fallen in love with Vivica, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.

Anna and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets--dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.

Pages: 561 (hardcover) 

Publisher: Published October 22nd 2013 by Harper

Rating: 9 out of 10

Source: Checked out of library

Date Completed: March 7, 2014

I loved Wally Lamb even before I read any of his books.  When I was living in New Orleans, I attended the Tennessee Williams literary festival  and heard him speak; he had a wonderful spark and I liked hearing how the plots for his books developed.  He also did a writing exercise with the group and I wish I could remember his words exactly, but his passion for working with women in prison was inspiring.  He was also a great sport and took a picture with my friend and me.  Since then, I read and enjoyed I Know this Much is True and She's Come Undone

I was very excited to read We are Water even though the premise seemed a little dark. Parts of the story were hard to get through and others were disturbing.  Sometimes, I felt really angry and upset; sometimes, I laughed.  No matter what emotion came out, I always wanted to read more. I thought hard about what makes a marriage work, the importance of career, and family connections.  I wondered what I would do in the position of all the characters.  I was frustrated with what I perceive as a lack of consequences for some terrible behavior.  

The biggest surprise is how well characters who are easy to hate because of things they have done evoked some sympathy from me.  I did not like them, but I did not hate them with as much vengeance as I thought when I reflected on the story.  My favorite characters were all three of the kids and my least favorite were the parents. The complexity of family relationships and the ways childhood shapes adulthood were examined pretty well. 

I am counting this book for the following challenges: 

2014 Chunkster Reading Challenge: At 561 pages, this is certainly a chunkster.  

What's in a Name 2014: for the category of a type or element of weather as water qualifies as an element of rain

Posted on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 10:11PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

Wonder

From goodreads

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Pages: 315 (hardback) 

Publisher: Published February 14th 2012 by Knopf

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Checked out of library

Date Completed: February 13, 2014

I first heard about Wonder by R.J. Palacio while listening to NPR; it was the September selection for the NPR Backseat book club which is a book club for young readers.  I was immediately taken with the story's premise and then really loved the author interview.  I also really enjoyed the passages of the book being read by fifth graders. Even though we did not select it for our book club, I was excited to read it and LOVED the characters and the story. 

Besides Auggie, my favorite character is Summer. She is warm, funny, and kind.  The book captures the complexity of middle school really well; in particular, the struggle to fit in while doing right by your fellow humans. Many of the scenes made me cry; I was especially moved by the lunch room image of Auggie sitting by himself. I was brought back to the anxiety and worry of having someone to sit with at lunch.   I also keep thinking about the emperor's guard chapter which makes me want to high-five humanity.  I did love Auggie's voice, but I was glad that we got to have the perspective of other characters as well. 

Posted on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 11:07AM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

From goodreads

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential. 

Pages: 217 (hardback) 

Publisher: Published March 11th 2013 by Knopf

Rating: 8 out of 10

Source: Checked out of library and then borrowed from a book club member

Date Completed: January 31, 2014

Even before I read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, I heard so much about it that I already had the idea that I would generally agree with her points, but have some issue with the nuance. I did appreciate the conversation the book generated and the general premise that more should be done to empower and support women to reach their full potential. 

The biggest surprise for me was how many of her suggestions and approaches I could apply RIGHT NOW.  In particular, I was struck with how much I apologize for things which are not my fault. Even as I strive to be confident, when I feel nervous or anxious (which happens often in a new environment) my default mode is to apologize.  Some of my favorite chapters of the book were about like ability (again could relate to this desire), true partnership (certainly striving for this ALL THE TIME in my marriage), and having it all (love that she emphasized the definition of this varies from person to person and will evolve).  

The most surprising and helpful section to me was on Don't Leave Before You Leave.  I fight the urge to worry constantly about a future where all of my fears have come true becoming a reality.  I also tend to create anxiety about how I will manage in the future.  See worrying about going to law school and not being able to get a job after graduation because of the possibility of a recession. See also being in the first trimester of pregnancy and being concerned with how we were going to pay for our daughter's education.  There are some genuine concerns in there, but giving so much energy to a worst case scenario can as Sandberg suggests create limitations and reduce possibilities. 

I appreciate the criticisms that she has a very privileged life which influences her perspective, but overall I think that there is something in the book which can be applied to everyone.  Plus, I love the work Lean In.Org is doing to create systematic change, including Ban Bossy and changing stock photos to portray women and girls in powerful ways

Posted on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10:38AM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son

From goodreads

In Some Assembly Required, Anne Lamott enters a new and unexpected chapter of her own life: grandmotherhood.

Stunned to learn that her son, Sam, is about to become a father at nineteen, Lamott begins a journal about the first year of her grandson Jax's life.

In careful and often hilarious detail, Lamott and Sam-about whom she first wrote so movingly in Operating Instructions-struggle to balance their changing roles with the demands of college and work, as they both forge new relationships with Jax's mother, who has her own ideas about how to raise a child. Lamott writes about the complex feelings that Jax fosters in her, recalling her own experiences with Sam when she was a single mother. Over the course of the year, the rhythms of life, death, family, and friends unfold in surprising and joyful ways.

Pages: 272 (hardback) 

Publisher: Published March 20th 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover

Rating: 8 out of 10

Source: Checked out of library

Date Completed: January 27, 2014

When I look back on early parenthood, Anne Lamott's book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year is one of the shining lights.  The book helped me so much! A few years into parenthood and I am trying to figure out how to improve my relationship with all of my daughter's grandparents.  I was very excited to hear that she had a new book coming out about her experience as a grandparent.  Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son by Anne Lamott was something I very much looked forward to reading, but did not get around to starting for quite awhile. 

As predicted, I loved her insight and was glad to get the grandparent perspective; I also loved that she co-wrote the book with her son.  I was hoping to become more patient and understanding; in the general scheme of the book I felt like I understood her perspective, but I still felt frustrated and annoyed with some of the ways she interacted with her grandson and his parents.  One of my favorite passages in the book is about staking out and claiming love territory.  We are so lucky that there are so many people who love and support us as a family, but sometimes we inadvertently compete to make sure we have a special spot in my daughter's heart.   Even though I know better, I find myself in a weird competitive mode. Seeing my behavior through Lamott's writing made me laugh and reminded me that parenthood can be so much easier without drama. 

One of my sweetest moments with the book was as I was finishing the last few pages.  The Little One had not slept well the night before and came into our bed.  She was sleeping in and I decided to read next to her.  Hearing her breathe and look so peaceful next to me made the words about love and family feel so real. 

I am counting this book for the What's in a Name 2014 for the reference to time category. 

Posted on Friday, April 25, 2014 at 3:37PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) 

From goodreads

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. 

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Pages: 429 (paperback) 

Publisher: Published May 27th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published May 17th 2007)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Source: Borrowed from a friend 

Date Completed: January 25, 2014

The first book I finished in 2013 was Broken Harbor by Tana French which I read for the Partners and Professors book club. While I had mixed feelings about the book, others in the club praised In the Woods by Tana French. I borrowed a copy and began reading little sections here and there.  Initially, I was engrossed and then a little bit restless.  I wanted more resolution at the end, but overall I did like it better than Broken Harbor. 

My favorite and most frustrating character was Rob Ryan whose connection to the past comes up in some unexpected ways as he is trying to solve the current case.  I also liked his partner Cassie Maddox and wanted him to be less jerky to her.  

The ending was a surprise which felt like a good reward as some parts of the book dragged. 

Posted on Friday, April 25, 2014 at 9:26AM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment