Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Lakes and Snakes

I spent the first two weeks in August visiting my parents' home, which is on one of the beautiful Finger Lakes in upstate New York. (Saying "my parents' home" doesn't sound quite right as it was once my home, too. But saying "my hometown" doesn't ring true, as I consider where I live now to be my hometown; nor does saying "my childhood home" sound quite accurate as I lived there mostly during my teen years.)

Anyway: suffice it to say I spent a lot of time reading out on the dock while the kids swam in Seneca Lake. We also spent a total of 28 hours in the car (round trip), and I'm fortunate to be one of those people who can read in the car. So here is my total vacation reading list and reviews of several of the books:
The Miracle at Speedy Motors (Alexander McCall-Smith)
The River King (Alice Hoffman)
On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan)
Atonement (Ian McEwan)
The Secret Between Us (Barbara Delinsky)
Liar's Club (Mary Karr)
A Death in the Family (James Agee)

and yesterday I finished The Serpent Handlers by Fred Brown and Jeanne McDonald, which I began somewhere in the middle of Virginia heading south on Interstate 81.

What a fantastic two weeks of reading. There were no "losers" in those eight books, although The Secret Between Us was not of the same caliber as the rest. Still, even that was entertaining—and sometimes we just need to be entertained. The three highlights for me were Ian McEwan's two and James Agee's Pulitzer-winning classic. I've heard so much about McEwan, and I was not disappointed. And as far as Agee goes, my only disappointment is that I never encountered his writing in all my many years as an English major in college and graduate school, and that I didn't make this novel required reading for my American Lit class last year. What a shame. And I'm mad at all my English teachers and profs for not introducing Agee to me ever.

A surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the nonfiction account of serpent-handlers. I have a weird fascination with religious fringe movements, like the fundamentalist LDS movement as described in John Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven. Brown and McDonald handle the lives of the snake-handlers gracefully and graciously, but I'll tell all about that in my upcoming review.

This week I'll be joining several other bloggers on Kids Book Buzz for a tour of Mary Ann Rodman's new WWII novel, Jimmy's Stars. I've been reading this with my 10-year-old daughter for the past couple of weeks, and she calls it "one of the best books ever." In fact, I'm going to go join her now and read the last two chapters.

Happy Sunday!


Literary Feline said...

It sounds like you had a nice trip, not to mention a lot of time to enjoy a few books. That always makes for the best vacations. :-)

I hope you have a wonderful week.

Jill said...

Glad you enjoyed your vacation - and your books. I like McEwan too. I plan on reading Atonement this fall.

Happy Sunday!

Anonymous said...

I'm also fascinated by fundamentalist/fringe religions and LOVED Krakauer's book...I read it in the midst of a polygamy-themed-book craze about a year ago and felt oh-so-timely when the news broke about Warren Jeffs' ranch in Texas this spring. Enjoy!

Jennifer said...

What a wonderful vacation! I am looking forward to the days when my preschooler is a little older. I will be able to read more books ...


Anonymous said...

We don't live too far from the Finger Lakes, in northcentral Pennsylvania. It's beautiful country. As for the books, I have the Agee book on my TBR list, which doesn't seem to be getting any shorter. Have you posted the review about the snake handlers book? I really think that one sounds interesting.