Friday, September 29, 2023

An Early Sunday Salon: September 29, 2023


photo courtesy of Symphony Space

Hello, friends. Happy fall!🍂🍁 It's been an action-packed couple of weeks and we are on the way back to NYC for the second consecutive weekend. Last week my daughter and I went to see Ann Patchett at Symphony Space, where Patchett was in conversation with her friend, writer Patrick Ryan. It was amazing! Ann spoke on  a wide variety of topics including friendship, writers workshops, Tom Lake, several of her backlist books, the writing process, research, and then she answered audience questions, too. This was my first live author event since the pandemic, and I can't wait to attend another. 

This weekend is all about wedding dress shopping for our oldest daughter. (Twin A is getting married next month, Daughter #1's wedding is in September 2024.)  The groom's parents and sister are also in town this weekend. We have appointments at three bridal shops, with a brunch scheduled in between. While the ladies shop, the gentlemen have their own agenda... and college football surely figures into it! We'll all be together for dinner in the evening. It's going to be a great weekend.

Recent reading//

True Biz by Sara Nović

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
I rated it 4.5 stars, but my thoughts on this one are complicated. Look for a review this week.

Current reading//

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash
This is the October selection for the MMD book club. I'm about a third of the way in now.

I bought this while book browsing in NYC last weekend... isn't that cover irresistible? The audio is available on hoopla, so now it's a read/listen combination. I'm halfway through and enjoying it very much.

On the blog//

The week ahead//
I'm past due for a quiet week and hoping this will be it. We have no appointments scheduled and no travel plans... and I'm going to do everything in my power to keep it that way! 

How are things with you? What have you been reading lately?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Thoughts on TRUE BIZ by Sara Nović

True Biz by Sara Nović
Random House, 2022
386 pages

Source: ebook borrowed from library

Motivation for reading: MMD book club September selection

Summary (from goodreads):
The students at the River Valley School for the Deaf just want to hook up, pass their history finals, and have politicians, doctors, and their parents stop telling them what to do with their bodies. This revelatory novel plunges readers into the halls of a residential school for the deaf, where they'll meet Charlie, a rebellious transfer student who's never met another deaf person before; Austin, the school's golden boy, whose world is rocked when his baby sister is born hearing; and February, the headmistress, who is fighting to keep her school open and her marriage intact, but might not be able to do both. As a series of crises both personal and political threaten to unravel each of them, Charlie, Austin, and February find their lives inextricable from one another's—and changed forever.

This is a story of sign language and lip-reading, disability and civil rights, isolation and injustice, first love and loss, and, above all, great persistence, daring, and joy. Absorbing and assured, idiosyncratic and relatable, this is an unforgettable journey into the Deaf community and a universal celebration of human connection.

My thoughts:

Overall, I liked this book. I was unfamiliar with both Deaf culture and issues faced by the community, and this novel offered a way in. It introduced me to fundamentals of Deaf history, basic principles of signing, and the controversy surrounding sign language and the use of cochlear implants. Interspersed periodically between chapters were short nonfiction "lesson plans" - a creative feature which I enjoyed.

But there were some negatives, too. The novel had more of a didactic and YA (young adult) feel than I was expecting, plus the story dragged in the middle. 

The book club's author talk featured the author plus a sign language interpreter with Anne Bogel, and it was so interesting to watch! I never would have chosen this book on my own and appreciate the opportunity to learn about Deaf culture through MMD.

My rating:

Friday, September 8, 2023

A Look Back at August and Plans for September

The long holiday weekend is behind us and we are now well into September, but I'd still like to take a look back at August and outline some September reading possibilities. 

In August, we tried to make the most of the long summer days. The kids all visited, we traveled to upstate NY to see my parents and attend a family reunion, and spent several evenings on the beach for sunset. I managed to read four books last month, and was happy with their variety and quality. I read a classic play, a memoir, a new release from a favorite author, and reread a Pulitzer Prize winning short story collection on audio.

Books Read in August

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
classic play, ⭐⭐⭐💫

by Irmgard A. Hunt
memoir, ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
literary fiction, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
short stories, reread,⭐⭐⭐⭐

September Reading Possibilities

memoir in essays, audio reread (COMPLETE)

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese 
literary fiction, read/listen combo in progress

True Biz by Sara Nović 
MMD September selection, ebook in progress

The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Also planned in September is a longer visit with my parents, a quick trip to Buffalo to see friends, and two long weekends in NYC... one for an Ann Patchett event and another to go wedding dress shopping with our daughter who is getting married next  summer. We're also finalizing plans for our daughter's wedding next month. So exciting!

How was your August? Any big plans for September? What was your favorite book last month?


Sunday, September 3, 2023

A Labor Day Weekend Update


Hello book friends, happy Labor Day weekend! I'm savoring these last days of summer and, at the same time, looking ahead to a very full fall... especially with our daughter's wedding next month. On the reading front, I've been leaning into rereading old favorites. This has been a surprising, yet comforting, development.

Recent reading//

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
narrated by Matilda Novak
(an audio reread)

by Anna Quindlen, narrated by the author

Another audio reread, this time a 2012 memoir in essays from a favorite author... and still 5 stars!

Current Reading//

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
narrated by the author

After a long wait, there is finally a new novel from Abraham Verghese. Cutting for Stone was a favorite back in 2010 and now I'm happy to be immersed in his latest. It's a read/listen combination and I'm nearly halfway through this 775-page chunkster. 

True Biz by Sara Nović

This is the September selection for the MMD book club and I'm at the 20% mark now. It's good so far, but I'm reaching for The Covenant of Water  whenever I have time to read. I may just finish that one then give this book my full attention.

On the blog//

In the kitchen//
I kept things pretty simple this week with our favorite sheet pan Chicken Fajitas, Baked Tofu (on a night my husband had a meeting!) turkey chili taco soup, and a strawberry/blueberry variation of this incredibly easy Puff Pastry Blueberry Galette.

The week ahead//
Short weeks following long holiday weekends always feel a little off to me, even in retirement, but I'm working on an August reading wrap-up post, and waiting on a final estimate for bathroom remodels. Then it'll be time to finalize tile and fixture selection.

How was your week? What are you reading this holiday weekend?

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Rereading Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

by Jhumpa Lahiri, narrated by Matilda Novak
Highbridge Audio, 2007
6 hours and 15 minutes

I tend not to be a big rereader, but this is my second (of three) rereads just this summer. A podcast episode prompted this one. I was listening to From the Front Porch's last installment of their Backlist Book Club, now rebranded Bookmarked with Annie & Hunter. Interpreter of Maladies was the title they discussed... and I was surprised to find a few of the stories had stayed with me all these years. That made me curious about the others.

Interpreter of Maladies, originally published in 1999, won the Pulitzer Prize 2000. I listened to it in 2009. At the time, I was a new to short stories, but a frequent participant in the old "Short Story Monday" weekly blogging linkup where I primarily posted about classic short stories. This was likely one of the first contemporary collections I'd ever read. 

The stories that stayed with me were "A Temporary Matter,"  "Interpreter of Maladies," and "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine." 

I've gone on to read Lahiri's other story collection, Unaccustomed Earth, and a couple of her novels. Rereading an early work, even a Pulitzer Prize winning early work, emphasized just how much Lahiri has grown as a writer over the years. Looking over her backlist, I never read The Lowland  novel. Maybe I'll pick it up while waiting for her new collection, Roman Stories, coming in October. 

Have you read Jhumpa Lahiri?

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Thoughts on TOM LAKE by Ann Patchett


Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
Harper, 2023
320 pages

audiobook narrated by Meryl Streep
11 hours and 22 minutes

My one-sentence review:
This may just be the perfect novel... I loved every sentence!

A bit more:

Tom Lake, my most anticipated release of 2023, was every bit as good as I'd hoped. It's billed as Patchett's pandemic novel, though the pandemic isn't central to the story. Instead it serves as a mechanism to bring adult children home to their family's Michigan cherry orchard for an extended period of time. Telling stories becomes their preferred form of entertainment... in particular, one about a long ago summer theater run when their mother, a budding actress, and a soon-to-be-hugely-famous movie star are involved in a brief, but significant relationship.

Everything else - characters, writing, setting, atmosphere - really is perfection. This book made me feel all of it, and I did not want it to end.

Tom Lake  was a read/listen combination for me. The audio version is truly something special... Meryl Streep's narration is exquisite. In my twenty-plus years of listening to audiobooks, this is one of the very best. 

One final note:
 I strongly recommend reading the classic play Our Town  by Thornton Wilder prior to Tom Lake, especially if you've not read it before. It figures prominently into the story, so being familiar with the characters and plot will add to your overall understanding and appreciation. The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov has also been suggested as a prerequisite but, for me, it didn't add to my reading experience.

My rating:
Tom Lake will surely be one of my favorite books of 2023.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

It's Tom Lake Weekend!

Hello, friends, and happy Sunday. We are finishing up a wonderfully quiet week at home - no travel, no visitors, mostly good weather, and plenty of sunshine. We enjoyed a lovely dinner by the shore with friends, explored a nearby coastal town, and ate lobster rolls for lunch.

And now, it's Tom Lake weekend! I have been eagerly anticipating Ann Patchett's new novel and set aside some time this weekend to just read. Patchett is one of my favorite authors and I'm pretty sure I've read all of her books. My daughter and I have tickets to see her next month at Symphony Space in NYC. I can't wait!

Recent Reading//

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

This is another classic play, first published in 1903, that may be tangentially related to Tom Lake. An old Russian family, hopelessly in debt, is "urged to cut down their beautiful cherry orchard and sell the land for holiday cottages - they struggle to act decisively." After Our Town last month, I enjoyed reading another play... though this one reminded me how much I struggle with Russian names. It seems like everyone has at least three! I'm not sure how it might enhance my reading of Tom Lake, yet.

Edited:  I just got to the part where the parallel is obvious!

by Irmgard A. Hunt

I saw this book mentioned on Susan's blog last month and thought it would be a good follow-up to The Postcard  by Anne Berest... and it was! This was a read/listen combination for me (the ebook and audio are both available on hoopla) and it was fascinating. A memoir from the German perspective is well worth reading and, at times, quite unsettling. Written in 2005, before our current political woes, I noted several chilling parallels to today.  Head over to Susan's blog for a more complete review.

Current reading//

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

I am halfway through this novel and loving every sentence! I purchased a print copy and later learned that Meryl Streep narrates the audio version. Yes, I ended up using an audible credit, too. I've been listening to audiobooks for over twenty years and this is one of the best performances ever!

On the blog//

The week ahead//
Both NYC daughters, their fiancés, and Winnie the Whippet all arrive in a few days for an extra-long weekend. The "kids" will all be working remotely for a day or two, but we'll still have plenty of time to enjoy summer near the shore. Fingers crossed the weather cooperates!

What's new with you this week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.


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