Written as a letter to the narrator’s illiterate immigrant mother, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous talks about his childhood and young adulthood, reaching back to his mother’s and grandmother’s lives during the Vietnam War. I loved the descriptions of the tough life of his mother, who works in a nail salon, the complicated relationship with his American grandfather, and his difficult connection with his single mom. I did not like as much the coming-of-age stories and its dreamlike writing.
Monthly Archives: January 2020
Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me is, amazingly, the true story of a mother who enlisted her (young!) teenaged daughter into her long and ill-advised tryst with her husband’s best friend, himself married, of course. The remarkable part of the memoir is that it took years for its writer to realize that so many boundaries had indeed been crossed. I did not like the book, not because of the sad story it contained, but because of the way it was told, like a bad romance novel (or at least my idea of what a bad romance novel would be): with lots of irrelevant details of the clothes that were worn and the tony abodes where the story unfolded and a puzzling lack of judgment on most of the actors.
Written by a scientist, The Hidden World of the Fox offers a delightful description of how foxes have adapted brilliantly to suburbia and how we can help keep them wild and living safely in our midst. The author mixes tales of her research with stories of cohabitation struggles, mostly in the UK, where she lives. She has pictures from wild animals from all over the world, too!
No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History both traces the history of how older women have been treated throughout American history and tells many anecdotes of specific women. I found the first theme most accomplished, in particular as it highlights the surprising ups and downs of women’s status (I suppose I should say it’s surprising to see that there were many ups). The anecdotes are interesting but the main focus seems to be on politics and entertainment, so mostly prominent women, and it would have been good to consider more average women. Still, a very readable and entertaining book.
A Bitter Feast opens in a dreamy Cotswolds mansion for a comfortable weekend featuring a gourmet lunch prepared by the local pub owner, whose Michelin-starred pedigree makes for much more ambitious fare that can be expected in a standard pub. But deaths accumulate in the small village and soon it’s clear that the chef’s past has literally come back to haunt her, and the guests have to shift to their usual detective work. I particularly enjoyed two delightful portraits of a teenager and a chid that find a bond.
The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter is written by a woman who loves shopping especially when not directed toward buying anything, who defines the 20th century through just two people, Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, and who keeps, and adds to, her mother’s collection of handbag–in other words, a woman with a great love of fashion, utterly unlike me. That said, her book is a wonderful exploration of clothes, the relationship women have with clothes, and the difficult relationship between designers and older women. Fun, and deeper than it seems, even with the repeats that seem to stem from having recycled blog posts into a full-length book,
One would think that a story that includes two murders, a robbery, an unexpected inheritance, a lottery win, a bitter divorce, and many counts of police irregularities would make for a rollickingly fun yarn. Instead, The Many Aspect of Mobile Home Living is full of boring middle-aged men who smoke a lot, drink a lot, and don’t seem to do much else. Yawn, despite the touching love between two brothers.
The Dutch House follows a brother and sister from what could be a perfect childhood in the big house of a title with a doting staff, but minus a mother who disappeared mysteriously, all the way into adulthood, past the misery of an evil stepmother. I enjoyed the complicated relationship between the siblings and the portrait of their mother, a woman who is much more than the deserter of her children. I was taken by the story and wanted to know more. But it seems a little contrived, with all the family members attending elite schools and achieving great success.
Written before its authors won the Nobel Prize (and occasionally funny to read after they did), Good Economics for Hard Times ambitiously tackles inequality, globalization, social programs, politics, and more. It’s a bit much! But it highlights some important themes, most importantly that markets cannot, by themselves, solve all problems, and that economic ideas should be carefully tested, and not only in the country where the generator of the idea happens to be located. We are, happily, far from the rational homo economicus and WEIRD subjects of most economics discussions.
As Chances Are opens, three college friends are getting together for a weekend in the Cape Cod house of on of them, decades after a young woman disappeared mysteriously from the same house, as they were all gathered for a post-graduation ceremony. The mystery will be untangled and many memories shared, or relived. It’s all fine and comfortable and even entertaining, but a little lightweight at the same time.