Wednesday, July 13, 2016

book report #9

*Love With a Chance of Drowning (Torre DeRoche) - a fun and entertaining memoir about a woman who overcame her fear of water (hence the title) and embarked on a three-year sailing adventure from LA to Australia and beyond. I'm not normally a fan of memoirs but I am a fan of boats and love stories, and the humorous and familiar tone DeRoche took to tell her story kept me engaged instead of at arm's length. While I doubt I'll sell all my possessions to live full-time on an 18-foot boat, this book almost made me want to take sailing lessons and definitely made me want to jump on the next flight to French Polynesia.

*Undermajordomo Minor (Patrick DeWitt) - this one was strange and not in a good way. I never quite figured out if it was a fairy tale, allegory, magical realism, or some other type of literally genre I never learned about in college. Amazon reviews call it "delightful, wacky, quirky, and charming" but I just thought it was weird. Not my cup of tea.

*Wild By Nature (Sarah Marquis) - honestly, this book eventually pissed me off so much that I stopped reading it about 75 pages from the end. It started off with promise - independent female explorer sets off to walk the length of entire countries - Mongolia, China, Thailand - on her way to Australia. After some obvious setbacks (weather, equipment failure, more weather, a tooth extraction) her trek totaled nearly three years in time, and this book is her memoir about the walk. But at no point did she ever say why she was obsessively walking. Was she running from something? To something? To discover something? To learn something? And even though she had helpers and fixers throughout her journey (she was given a contact person in each country and boxes of supplies at each stopping point) she never justified how she could simply take three years out of her life to walk. I guess it was a sponsored trip? Even if it was, she wrote with such a jarringly jib tone throughout (oops! almost died again lol) that it was entirely off-putting. I had high hopes for this one and it sadly did not come through.

*A Book of Silence (Sara Maitland) - I've obviously had female-adventurer memoirs on the brain this year, and this one was interesting and informative, if not a little too heavy on the dry research. Regardless, it was an interesting concept - a post-marriage woman in her 50's goes in search of silence - but what is it, exactly? And what does prolonged silence do to a person? I most enjoyed when Maitland got personal and reflected on her own silent discoveries as opposed to the more scholarly sections, but even so, this book got me thinking about my own auditory experiences, including but not limited to the ironic fact that I read the majority of this book on the subway, a notably loud method of transport that leaves little room for silent introspection.

*The Nest (Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney) - an all-around wonderful novel. A smart, funny, and captivating story that was a welcome blend of epic family saga and modern relevance. The characters were beautifully flawed but entirely relatable and the plot was so enticing that I actually woke up early one morning to finish reading it before heading out for the day. I'd been in a bizarre literary rut for the past few months (see above) and this was the perfect story to get me back into the reading game.

*We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler) - part mystery (but not really), part anthropological study (but not really), part memoir (but not really) and part tell-all (but not really), this beautifully bizarre work of fiction is narrated by a woman who was raised alongside a chimpanzee back when these kinds of things were still kosher in the scientific world. Needless to say, her upbringing screwed her up in all kinds of ways, and even though I tend to stray from the "I had a terrible childhood" kind of stories, this one was just enticing enough to keep me reading and get me thinking about what exactly determines the difference between humans and animals.

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