Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day?

Can it really be? Remember when you lived up North? Come on guys, you know most of you did. Memorial Day was the beginning of what seemed like a long, lazy summer when you could finally have a little daylight after work and neighbors caught up after a long winter of hibernation. You went out and bought annuals and thought you could safely ensconce them in the ground without fear of another freeze.
Here in Southwest Florida it seems that the opposite is true. Now we close up the houses - though today is gorgeous and I'm wide open - turn on the AC and hibernate for the summer, catching up on old movies (I watched Chinatown yesterday) and reading!

So, I definitely gave up on The Appeal - life's too short - sorry John Grisham. I'm almost finished with I Am America....Kathleen was right, it is very funny, but I'm a little worried that people who don't know Stephen Colbert and aren't familiar with his show, might actually read this book and think that he's giving them a pass to be narrow minded, right wing nuts. We know he's kidding, but without seeing his face (and he and John Stewart can say sooooo much with just a raised eyebrow) some might not be sure. I'm anxious to get started on Maryellen's recommendation - the best book she's read all year she said (and that's saying something for her!) - it's called The Monsters of Templeton and that's next for my car.

With my Don away I've been keeping busy by catching up on all those organizational, cleaning projects that one puts off for a "rainy day." While I sort through clothes I'll never fit into again or rearrange the cabinets, I listen to books and I've started and almost finished Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells. What a delight! Andrea had mentioned it as a guilty pleasure but I see no reason to feel guilty. This new author - I believe this is her first book but she has another one out already (The Sugar Queen) - is a lovely mixture of Alice Hoffman, Laura Esquivel and Chocolate all balled up in one sweet confection.
Families are always great fodder for writers - mine especially - and the Waverleys are no exception. Sisters Claire and Sydney have been estranged for 10 years when Sydney returns to the family home in North Carolina driving a battered old car she bought with money she stole one dollar at a time from an abusive boyfriend. With her 5 year old daughter Bay in tow, (who captivates everyone she meets) Sydney settles in and much to Claire's surprise, seems to finally be at peace with who she is. Of course, the sisters discover that neither one knew as much about the other as they had thought, misunderstandings are clarified, and, with a little magical help from the wonderfully mysterious garden, relationships are forged. I can hardly wait to get back to it to see what happens but I am so done working for today!

The other day I finished a novel that crept up on me in a lovely way. I'd read warm reviews of Tessa Hadley's The Master Bedroom but hadn't seen it getting a lot of play at the library. So many times I give up on a book because the characters are so UNlovely. Not the case here. Even though the plot is predictable, gal whose life is slowly going nowhere decides to return home to care for aging parent and turns local lives upside down with her insouciance, the gal is a spunky academic named Kate Flynn and her alzheimer's afflicted mother Billie is one of the sweetest people I've ever met in fiction.
I guess it's the luminous writing, the gorgeous description of the old home in Cardiff that welcomes Kate back into it like a comfortable old bathrobe, that converts the standard plot into something special. Kate's relationship with her mother is enviable and the two spend time together making music (Billie was a paino teacher and Kate plays the violin) and attracting friends. The conflict comes when a troubled father and his teenage son, each develop a longing for Kate's company. The master bedroom fulfills its destiny as it has for generations but I'll say no more as that would spoil it for someone who might read it. Don would be very proud of me - 2 books with happy endings right in a row! It could be a first for me.

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