Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Checking Back In

Guilty: I haven’t been blogging.

But I have been reading. I just didn’t seem to have the energy to get my thoughts together. But here are some of the books that I have read during this period and can recommend:

Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. This is a memoir about the friendship between two older women that ended all too abruptly with the death of one from cancer. That is not a spoiler. These two women have more than the usual bonds: Same profession, new puppies, recovered from addiction, complicated relationships with their fathers, and a love of an athletic pursuit. Most of us are not so lucky. But women readers especially will appreciate (and envy) their discovery of each other – without any of the sexual intimacy that seems to be presumed among two single women friends.

Searching for Tamsen Donner by Gabrielle Burton. Another memoir. For a book that I really liked, it took me over a month to read and I’m not sure why. Burton is married and has five daughters (just like Tamsen Donner). One summer Burton takes her family on a road trip to recreate the journey of the Donner party. This memoir is part journal of that trip, part history of the Donner party and part record of Burton’s struggles to balance her ambition as a writer and her sense of responsibility as a mother. The history of the Donner party is fascinating. I had always thought that the stories of cannibalism were just conjecture – not so. Tamsen Donner managed to write a few letters during the journey which have been preserved; but her journal was never found. Burton tries to reimagine the thoughts and feelings of Tamsen Donner.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Fiction. If someone had told me that I could ever take an interest in professional race car driving, I would never have believed it. But for most readers, I think, that part of this book is just tangential. It’s more about the dog. The entire book is told from the dog’s point of view – which raises some interesting questions, such as: What does a dog see when the dog is in front of a television? There is a lot about race car driving and some good philosophy. “The car goes where the eyes go” works for both.

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