Book Chat

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This month’s book reviews:

Remember Chris Farley?  As much as it brands me a big ole dork, I have to say that his Saturday Night Live characters were some of the rare things that could make me laugh out loud.

I especially loved his Matt Foley character, brought in to motivate a couple of wayward teens. Matt says something to the effect of, I know you think you’re going to grow up and take the world by storm, but as you grow up, you’re going to find that you don’t amount to jack squat!

Okay, why am I sharing this?  Well, because I think that the main characters in Revolutionary Road, Frank and April, needed to hear that message.

Frank and April are a couple nearing 30.  They have two kids, and are depressed that their lives are so … conventional.  They love to make fun of their friends and co-workers and discuss how they are destined for greatness.  The problem is, greatness doesn’t seem to be finding them.

Okay, another side note:  remember how, as a kid and teen, you’re constantly being told how you’re “the future” and how great you will be when you grow up?  I do, and I remember thinking even then that this was a lot of pressure to put on a kid!  It’s almost a relief to be a 40-something mom, because nobody’s telling me that I’m the hope of the future.

April and Frank slog their way through life in a very unsatisfying way, and some irony occurs when a friend’s insane son comes to visit and says the most sensible things of anyone in the book.  April comes up with the brilliant idea of moving to Paris, where she plans to make boatloads of money as a secretary at an embassy (do they make that much?  This is never explored, but I would think a family of four living on a secretary’s salary in Paris would be destitute) while Frank stays home with the kids and discovers what it is that he’s destined to do.

Predictably, this plan falls apart and the whole book ends with a tragedy.  If you’re up for a good, depressing read about what happens when you take yourself way too seriously, you’ll enjoy this book.  Incidentally, it’s also (in my opinion; probably not the author’s intent) a revealing look at the despair life can bring when God isn’t part of it.  Despite the doom ‘n gloom, it’s beautifully written.

Also, an obligatory warning – this book, although written in the ’60s, contains quite a bit of profanity (as does the film).


amishSo, how about something a little lot more wholesome? A Man of His Word was sent to me by Thomas Nelson, and I was happy to read it.  If you’ve read Beverly Lewis’ Amish novels, this strikes me as a pretty clear knock-off.  The cover bothered me … the guy’s eyes are just a little creepy and the woman’s face just doesn’t give me an Amish vibe — but who’s nitpicking?  Let’s get to the story.

The book is set in an Amish community, and probably the best part about it is the feel you get for the simplicity of Amish life … the simple clothing, simple transportation, and all the food! Moriah, the main character, is marrying Levi.

Unfortunately, within months things go wrong with Levi, but his twin brother Gabe sure has always liked Moriah … and the book tends to play out predictably.  There is also another side romance going on which is predictable as well.

As a grammar nut, I was annoyed at the problems with were/where and other punctuation/spelling errors (um, editor?  Were where are you?).

So, the story itself isn’t the most riveting, but if you’d like a nice wholesome read set in a charming place, you could do worse.

young woman and the sea

I’m only about 1/3 of the way through Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, but I’m really liking it.  It’s the story of Trudy Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel – but it’s more than that.

First, a lot of history on swimming.  I didn’t realize that it’s only been in the past 90 years or so that women were taught to swim.  For much of Europe’s history, swimming was thought to be ungainly and not something proper folks did.  Even when men began swimming, it certainly wasn’t a sport for women – for one thing, the costume!  Horrors! The author recounts incidents in the early 1900s where women were arrested for public nudity while wearing bathing suits on beaches. This fear of women exposing themselves was behind much of the reluctance to see women swimming.

Trudy and her sisters were in on the beginnings of women’s swimming in the US, and for Trudy the water truly felt like home, partially because she was nearly deaf from a childhood bout with measles.

All kinds of interesting history are recounted – men were the first to swim the English channel, often basically naked.  It took quite a bit longer for a woman to do it, no doubt in large part due to the fact that many were trying to do it in cumbersome wool “swim dresses.”  You’ll also learn why the English Channel is so difficult to swim:  tides, currents, and 60-degree water all play roles.

This is a fascinating tail of determination – “girl power” without all the PC feminist hype that abounds today.  Highly recommended!


10 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. I really enjoyed reading your reviews of these. And I agree that it’s kind of a relief to be a 40-something mom without the hope of the future riding on my shoulders.

    I read Revolutionary Road years ago, and don’t remember much — except that marital argument beside the road. That was a doozy!

  2. I’ve had RR on my shelf for months now, since a friend lent me her copy. You’ve just helped to remind me to get into the queue of reading materials soon! 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Young Woman and the Sea sounds really intriguing. I’ll be curious to know what you think of it when you are done! I hadn’t heard of it but it sounds like something I would very much enjoy.

  4. I love how much you read! 🙂 These sound good but since I’m so odd with my reading, I don’t think I’ll get to them. Most of what I read seems to be for research 🙂
    But…I am reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and it is so good, incredibly short! I do love it, my only guilty pleasure beyond research…lol!
    Thanks Susan!

  5. Thanks for the review on the swimming one; I have a friend who swims quite a bit and she would really enjoy that one I am sure. I’m currently reading a book about health care around the world – it is not what we’ve been told. There’s a lot we could learn from some of the other countries.

  6. The name of the book is “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care,” by T. R. Reid. There is also a video he made, I think it is on Frontline, called Sick Around the World, that’s pretty good. We got it through Netflix. The book is better, of course!

  7. I’ve got Revolutionary Road, on my stack…are they going to end up “in a van down by the river?” LOL Love Chris Farley.

  8. Thanks for (beginning to) read my book. I’m glad you like it so far, but I think it gets even better. So far, it really seems to have struck a chord with readers.

    Thanks again!

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