Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Sunday Salon: March in Review

This has been a most pitiful month here on SmallWorld Reads. I've posted only six entries and finished only four books. I'm not quite sure what's happened to me!

Books Reviewed
Tramp for the Lord
The Bookseller of Kabul

Finished but not yet reviewed: New Moon, second in the Twilight series. (I wasn't crazy about Twilight but my friend begged me to keep reading. I'm glad I did. More later.)

Favorite Book of the Month: Paula by Isabel Allende

Books to Movies: Gone with the Wind (I've been watching it since I was a little girl, and for the first time I watched it with my kids. Loved the book, love the movie, love that my kids loved it!) and Twilight (I really, really liked the movie. Bella was perfect.)

Currently Reading: Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, which my son is reading for his English 1010 class.

Sunday Scribblings:
Dear Past Me, Dear Future Me

And most weeks I perused Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books, my favorite place to glean new titles.

I am quite sure that April will be a better reading month!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Aging

We are surfacing now after 20 years, taking deep breaths and looking around. It's only now that we start to come up for air, now that diapers and potty chairs and nap-times and juice cups are years behind us, shoe-laces rarely needing to be tied, even bath-time no longer an evening requisite. Aah, sweet sound of the solitary shower.

How long until we miss it all, until we yearn for sticky hands and crumbs, wish for shoes scattered and outfits flung like deflated scarecrows on bedroom floors? Wish for a faded plastic fire engine in the driveway, a tangle of jump-ropes by the back door?

Someday, then, will we irresponsible tooth fairies regret tossing tiny teeth? Will we impromptu barbers mourn the piles of blond wisps swept into the trash? Will we miss the pair of tiny red Converse we gave to Goodwill, tired of untying knot after knot?

Breathing deeply, we surface.

(For more takes on the prompt "Aging," see this week's Sunday Scribblings.)

Book Review: Paula

"Listen, Paula. I am going to tell you a story, so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost. The legend of our family begins at the end of the last century…"

I've had this book by Isabel Allende on my shelf for nearly a year. I have no idea what took me so long to read this beautiful book, written by Allende as her daughter lay in a coma. I'm glad I finally did.
"You have been sleeping for a month now. I don't know how to reach you; I call and call but your name is lost in the nooks and crannies of this hospital. My soul is choking in sand. Sadness is a sterile desert."
It was a hard book to get through because the circumstances of the book are so painful. Allende's 28-year-old vibrant, brilliant, newly married daughter falls into a coma as a result of a genetic disorder called porphyria. Allende sits by her bedside for six months and begins writing the story of her Paula's family, Allende says, "to bring you back to life."

Allende's writing is simply beautiful. This is a winding tale of a memoir, but the winding is purposeful and never wandering aimlessly. Allende will tell a lovely story from her childhood or her mother's childhood and then return the reader to Paula's bedside, where she is immersed in grief.
"In the long, silent hours, I am trampled by memories, all happening in one instant, as if my entire life were a single, unfathomable image. The child and girl I was, the woman I am, the old woman I shall be, are all water in the same rushing torrent."
This is a sad, lovely book. I've read Portrait in Sepia and Daughter of Fortune and loved them both; Allende is a master storyteller, and this memoir took her to a new level for me. I am going to add several of her books to my TBR list; I've only just begun!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Dear Past Me, Dear Future Me

Dear Past Me:

Be a nicer person.
Have more confidence in yourself.
Be sweet to your parents. They adore you.

He will come.

Dear Future Me:

Have lots of land where the grandkids can run around.
Give your grown-up kids surprise gifts of money, even if they seem to have plenty.
Offer to take your grandkids for the weekend.
Grow flowers.
Keep telling your kids that you think they are wonderful.
Laugh with them.
Don't be sad looking through old photo albums.

Kiss him every day.
Never forget the source of all good gifts.
Never stop saying thank you.

(For more Sunday Scribblings on "Dear Past Me, Dear Future Me," go here.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Review: The Bookseller of Kabul

Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad spent three months living with Sultan Khan in 2002, after the fall of the Taliban. Khan is an Afghan bookseller, and, according to Seierstad, is not a typical Afghani, as he is middle class and literate. Seierstad is able to immerse herself and her audience in the life of this Khan's rather complex family, painting a rather depressing and even terrifying picture of life in Afghanistan.

In The Bookseller of Kabul, Seierstad jumps from family member to family member, detailing her experiences with Afghani politics, religion, culture, education, and especially gender roles. I think I felt almost more hopeless reading this book than reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road (my review here), because the latter is fiction. Seierstad's account is full of real people living their lives terrified and frustrated. In one chapter, Sultan's 12-year-old son is described as working 12-hour days selling candy in a hotel lobby with only a few customers each day. He grows pale and unhealthy, working from dawn to dusk, with what seems to be no hope for any relief. The women in Sultan's life are constantly humiliated and overworked, and everyone lives in terror of doing something offensive.

Apparently Sultan was outraged by Seierstad's book and sued (or planned to sue) her for libel, insisting that she misrepresented his family. Who knows the real story, but Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Bookseller of Kabul together present a bleak picture of life of Afghani women.

I'm glad I read this book. I can't really say I enjoyed it, both because of the subject matter and the choppiness of the chapters, but I think it's an important read.

Other reviews of this book:
One More Chapter

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Review: Tramp for the Lord

This is one of Corrie ten Boom's twenty or so books that details her life after World War II. If you haven't read The Hiding Place, you must start there or you can't really get the full impact of the amazing woman that was Corrie ten Boom, a simple Dutch woman with a powerful testimony. The Hiding Place is the story of how Corrie and her family helped Jews escape the Nazis and their subsequent imprisonment in a concentration camp. Tramp for the Lord chronicles Corrie's travels all around the world, sharing the word of God. I am amazed at what this woman continued to do well into her eighties, when she could have been relaxing in a life well lived.

Each chapter of the book is a separate story. I took several weeks to read this as a kind of devotional, reading only one or two chapters each night. I longed for Corrie to be able to rest her weary bones and stopping traveling, yet she just kept going. It's hard to even imagine how many lives she has transformed with her words, both written and spoken.

Sunday, March 1, 2009