Book Report: Two Books and a Story

December is a good time to discover your reading rhythm. When during the day are you compelled to stop whatever you are doing, no matter how long the list might be, and read? I invite you to pay attention to that inner voice, that voice calling you to reading time. Some days it may be necessary to ignore the voice as life intervenes, but don’t let that happen too often. That voice encourages you to take care of yourself, to find balance in your day, and to open your heart to imagination or new knowledge and awareness.

This past week I read two books and both should be added to my 2021 Favorite Book Lists (see https://livingonlifeslabyrinth.com/2021/12/02/book-report-my-favorite-books-of-2021-part-two-nonfiction/ and https://livingonlifeslabyrinth.com/2021/11/25/book-report-my-favorite-books-of-2021-part-one-fiction/

  1. The Road Back to Sweetgrass, A Novel by Linda LeGarde Grover. Published in 2014. If you love books by Louise Erdrich, you will also love this book. The author is a member of the Bois Forte band of Ojibwe and an associate professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. The story focuses on three women and their lives from the 1970’s to the present and how they navigate changes in their lives and their connection to the fictional Mozhay Point reservation. Each of them are drawn back to the Sweetgrass Allotment, which is the result of federal Indian policies. The final chapter tells the story of the first days of the allotment when the Muskrat family became transformed into the Washingtons by the pen of a federal land agent. I loved the use of the Ojibwe language–sometimes I could figure out the meaning of a word because of its context, but even when I couldn’t, I imagined how the word sounds, and I reflected on how important it is to make sure that language lives and is honored and respected.
  2. These Precious Days, Essays by Ann Patchett. Published in 2021. I ordered my book from Parnassus Books where Patchett is a co-owner. The Nashville bookstore is on my “someday” list, but in the meantime I now have a signed copy of her most recent book. I have no doubt Patchett is a wonderful person and not just because she cares enough about books to own a bookstore. She is the kind of person who opens her home to someone she barely knows when that person is enrolled in a cancer clinical trial (the subject of the title essay) and because she looks for saints in her life (the essay, “The Worthless Servant”).

“The trouble with good fortune is that we tend to equate it with personal goodness, so if things argue well for us and less well for others, it’s assumed they must have done something to have brought that misfortune on themselves while we must have worked harder to avoid it. We speak of ourselves as being blessed, but what can that mean except that others are not blessed, and that God has picked out a few of us to love more? It is our responsibility to care for one another, to create fairness in the face of unfairness and find equality where none may have existed in the past.” p. 52

Are you listening Joe Manchin?

My favorite essay, however, is “To The Doghouse,” which is about Snoopy in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comics. Snoopy the writer, the novelist of “It was a dark and snowy night.” fame. I needed the lightheartedness in this essay and the reminder that inspiration comes in unexpected places.

I found something to love in each of these essays –especially the writer herself. And now I want to re-read her earlier book of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

I also re-read the wonderful story by Truman Capote, “A Christmas Memory” after a friend sent me a note about her favorite Christmas reading. On her list is the Capote story because she “likes a little melancholy” in her Christmas reading. This is the story of making Christmas fruitcakes –and as it happens I was making my annual cherry walnut bread on the day I read this story again. I was right in the kitchen with Capote’s Buddy who is seven and his friend, a distant cousin who is sixty-something, but “still a child.” Enjoy the language, the tenderness, and yes, the melancholy. Thanks, Mona, for the reminder to read this story yet again.

What’s next? Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, which is only 115 pages and should be read in one sitting. I will listen to when my inner reading voice tells me to sit in the snug and read without allowing interruptions. The other book I am drawn to is the novel Painting Time by the French writer, Maylis de Kerangal about a young artist enrolled in an art school in Brussels. Stay tuned.

An Invitation: What is your inner voice telling you to read? I would love to know.

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