The Disappearing Spoon – This was a book club selection (my choice) and I loved it. It honored my inner geek. It’s the nonfiction look at the history of the periodic table and let me just say, the review couldn’t have been more timely. I competed in a scavenger hunt with friends a few weeks ago and one of the clues was listed by elements. And guess who remembered them? Ha! Also, this book reminded me of the many happy days I spent in Mr. Cassidy’s junior year chemistry class. I loved that class. Chemistry feeds my love of order. The book is so very good; it is heavy and at times hard to understand for lovers of the liberal studies, but completely worth the money. Four out of four bananas.
Committed – I just finished this — Elizabeth Gilbert’s answer to her famous memoir, Eat Pray Love. I loved EPL. I loved the book so much I read it twice and cried through the movie like I didn’t know what was happening. (Plus Javier Bardem. Are you kidding me? If Javier Bardem came on the side of Lima bean cans, they’d become my favorite vegetable.) Committed is simply an excellent read. It is again the nonfiction/memoir/academic view of this history of marriage, with an emphasis on how marriage and childbearing has defined women. It made me want to visit Laung Prabang (to see orchards of monks dressed in orange). It also made me giggle at her description of “freebasing infatuation and passion.” Oh God, how I can relate to that. The surge of emotion that comes with new infatuation, often disguised as love. I also love the fierce independence that shines through. One of my favorite of her quips includes, “I am the winner of my own bread.”
But the icing on the cake was a poem she shred by Kate Light describing perfect domesticity:
“A house in the country to find out what’s true
a few linen shirts, some good art
Love it. Five out of five bananas, absoloodle. I recommend it for the single folk, the happily married and everyone in between. It is a great read.
The 19th Wife – This book was on loan from my friend Clare. It is a fictionalized tale of Brigham Young’s 19th wife, Ann Eliza Young. I have read a lot of books in the last few years about polygamy, the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints and Mormon politics in the desert southwest. Many of Arizona’s leaders today are also leaders of the Latter Day Saint church locally. Many of our county supervisors have streets and junior high schools named after them, located in the Temple town of Mesa. Many of our congress people are members of the LDS church. Some 75% of my high school in Mesa was LDS.
So, my review isn’t without bias. Growing up, I felt like an outsider to not be a part of the faith. This left a sour taste in my mouth. When I worked in Mozambique, I worked closely with an LDS group that completely changed my views. While this still isn’t the spiritual path for me, I think you’d be hard pressed to find another group that so actively lives their ideals on a daily basis. Their views on family and missionary work are obvious to anyone paying attention. There is a lot about the Mormon life that I appreciate and respect.
The book was written with a scholarly view of memoirs left by women married to Brigham Young — one of the founders of the faith. But it is fiction. And while many still say “Mormons are polygamists” — I think their church has taken considerable strides to disassociate themselves with the fundamentalists who show up on the news living in compounds with prairie hair and dresses. Current day Mormons are no more polygamists than any other Christian group; Jacob had two wives. As a United Methodist, that doesn’t mean I’m taking a sister wife. (Sorry, Scott.)
This story was an interesting look at life in the 1800s, including the hard slogging life of women coming across the United States by pushcart, tending babies and animals along the way. Three out of five bananas.
Her Fearlful Symmetry – This was the follow up to the excellent book, The Time Traveler’s Wife. I loved that story. It was so brilliantly written and had me from the first page. This story, by contrast, had me half-way through until a serious change in the characters left me feeling like I’d been tricked. Her writing style is still great and it is an easy read. But certainly not my favorite of her work. Two out of five bananas.
Racing in the Rain – Reading this today and loving it. It is the story of a family told from the perspective of the family dog. It couldn’t be more up my alley. In one scene, where the dog has discovered the television and is loving learning all day while his owners are away, Garth Stein writes of the Discovery Channel, “They talk a lot about Darwin; pretty much every educational channel has some kind of show about evolution at some point, and it’s usually really well thought out and researched. However, I don’t understand why people insist on pitting the concepts of evolution and creation against each other. Why can’t they see the spiritualism and science are one? The bodies that evolve and souls evolve and the universe is a fluid place that marries them both in a wonderful package called a human being. What’s wrong with that idea?”
Banana review pending.