Book Reviews: March 2022

I know I’m a little late getting these out as we are nearing the end of April, but work and writing articles has taken up a fair bit of my time as well as preparing for my boyfriend to move in and my adult child to move out into their first apartment. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but in all of this I was able to complete nine books! Here are some thoughts about each that don’t give away the books.

I picked this book up on a trip to Arizona just before the pandemic really reared its ugly head. I went to the famous Antigone Books and this cover jumped out at me. I’d never heard of the author before and didn’t bother to read what the book was about because I was captivated by the cover. When I first started to read it, I had to put it down for several reasons. There were no dialogue tags…at all. At the time, I was writing my first novel and this sort of shift from normal wasn’t something my mind could tolerate. Secondly, it is a book about a virus taking over the world. It felt a little to right now for me, almost like reading about a trauma just before it happened. Forward to a place where the pandemic is just everyday business and I was able to get through the lack of dialogue tags and traditional indentations for paragraphs and muscled my way through. It is a translated book and this sometimes makes the transition to English a little choppy. It was an okay read, but I can’t say that I’d want to pawn it off on just anyone.

For some reason I have had a love/hate relationship with Sylvia Plath for most of my adult life. I have always found her poetry hit or miss and maybe all the stories of her personal life pushed me further away from her work. I tend to shy away from those authors that other people demand I read. It’s childish, but I like my authors genuinely found. I want to stumble upon them of my own volition. But here this book sat on my shelf, staring at me. I decided to read it just to remove it. Actually, I listened to this one while cleaning the house. It was apropos in some ways. I enjoyed the book immensely and probably much more than if I would have read it when it was suggested. I could look back on having had these types of feelings as a young woman and identify with what it meant in my own generation. Definitely a surprise enjoyed read for me.

This book was an early morning need-a-book-to-listen-to-on-the-way-to-work selection. Again, I didn’t know anything about the author or what the book was about. Often I try to expand the genres and authors I read/listen to in order to keep myself moving forward. This was a touching book about a girl growing up in Germany and that time just as the war was brewing and things started to not be safe for Jews in that country. It is a book that is multi-generational of the women in this family, how the daughter married and emigrated to America. The idea being that at some point she would have enough money to send for her parents and the heartbreak of their separation in uncertain times. A tear jerker for sure.

I often like to take my non-fiction books as audio-books as they lend to being able to do other things alongside listening. Facts are easier to collate this way for me. I have had an obsession with birds this year and this did not disappoint. This book is a great recounting of a young man’s journey to Russia to find these near mythical Fish Owls that some have seen but haven’t really been able to study. He suffers harsh Russian winters to complete his PhD thesis on the habitat and hunting/mating habits of these birds. It was exciting to discover and learn with him about these owls I never knew existed.

This book of poetry from Kerry Trautman was utterly delightful, but also inquisitive. She bought this portrait of a woman she didn’t know at an auction and as she looked at it each day, she began to develop conversations with her. The book is filled with musings of what Trautman imagines Marilyn would say to her or how she might judge her everyday life. The concept worked very well for me and it lends the writer and the reader an opportunity to create an imaginary life together. I highly recommend this collection.

I first heard of Sarah Kay through her TED talk and was instantly amazed at the amount of lines she could remember. I have a difficult time reading from memory and people who can manage this when it isn’t put to music, impress me. She also has a delightful storytelling manner. Having only heard her read once, I was able to instill her voice and cadence into the lines of this book filled with memories and love and heartbreak. The book left me with so many lines to think about in the context of my own life. When my friend was recovering from surgery, I gave it to her to read because even in the dark moments of this book, there is a quality of uplifting that can’t be denied.

I found this book at a library book sale. It is an utter stroke of kismet to find Jack Gilbert anywhere. Many years ago I read his collection “Refusing Heaven” and fell into this sort of melancholy love with his words. He is both sharp and tender in the way he spills the lines onto the page and since that time, I have looked for his books wherever I travel and never seem to find any. This tells me that he is the sort of writer that once he is in your collection and on the shelf, he doesn’t leave. We could all wish to have that enduring quality. I read this book while wandering around by the river and getting muddy. Best consumed outside.

I have been acquainted with Schumejda for many years now and even had the grace given to me to read with her several times. She is well educated but down to earth. She often writes about the everyday man/woman, about those feelings we are all too afraid to write about. I expected this when I got this book, but what took me by surprise was that this entire book is one poem that works out her feelings of disbelief, anger, sadness, grief, and forgiveness for something terrible her brother has done. It was a journey through all the emotions at the same time. The writing experimental in form and context but very cohesive and strong. It lent itself to the complexity of emotions trapped in the front and back cover. The art of Hosho McCreesh is spliced in between the long poem giving you a moment to catch your breath.

This was another library book sale find. The cover made me smile, so I thought I would give it a chance. I had never heard of Morgan Parker and I am always trying to expand my knowledge of poets in the world. This is a collection that does have some poems about Beyonce, but more over it is a book about how a contemporary African-American woman navigates today’s society. It was an interesting book for me, because though we are both women navigating the same world, it isn’t the same. I have privileges that she might not and these are not brought to light for me in a meaningful way most of the time as I shuffle around in my rural river town. I enjoyed the perspective, but also was made to feel like I needed to pay closer attention the way society treats African-American women.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find a few of these books interesting enough to give them a chance. Keep reading and writing. Be kind to each other. Buy Books!!!

Aleathia