Book Twentyone: Not Becoming My Mother

Not Becoming My Mother, Ruth Reichl

I feel torn about this book. I generally love Ruth Reichl and feel she can do no wrong. And while this book isn't actually wrong, it also isn't the most right thing I've ever read, either.

The problem is partly that it's just too short. It's about 110 pages, and each page in this small book is the equivalent of about one paragraph in a regular book (e.g. small size, large type and gigantic margins). And this seemed to shortchange Ruth's mother's life a bit. I just kept thinking, "Shouldn't there be more here? Shouldn't this interesting woman's life require more pages and thought than this?" And while there are certainly some touching moments, some of it also seemed too pat. And--I really, really hate to use this word in relation to anything Ruth Reichl--dare I say, trite? The last few paragraphs almost read like a sixth grader's essay on What My Parents Taught Me.

Oh god, I feel horrible not loving this book. So bad I just have to stop now before I make it worse.

Book Twenty: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

Can you believe I never read this book as a little girl?! Seriously, what kind of little girl was I? I now feel, after having finished this at the age of 34, that I must have been much less a girl and, hence, a woman for not having read this until now.

I finished it yesterday morning, sitting in Blackbird Bakery on Bainbridge Island, drinking coffee and wiping away tears. Every few sentences near the end up the book had me choked up and misty eyed. I want to quote endlessly from the book, just to show any of you few people out there who have never read this, how beautiful and perfect in every way this book is. But I will select just a few of my favorite bits.

Here's a moment after Marilla has chastised Anne for something or other, and Anne has proclaimed that she is improving all the time, and will surely soon be more practical and less daydreamy and romantic.

But Matthew, who had been sitting mutely in his corner, laid a hand on Anne's shoulder when Marilla had gone out.

"Don't give up all your romance, Anne," he whispered shyly, "a little of it is a good thing - not too much, of course - but keep a little of it, Anne, keep a little of it.

Or how about the moment that Anne and Diana have returned home to Avonlea from their visit to the Exhibition and to stay with Miss Barry in town?

"Oh, but it's good to be alive and to be going home," breathed Anne.

Or, after the concert where Anne does her recitation, and her friends are all exclaiming over the rich women with their diamonds and jewels and envying their wealth, and Jane says:

"Wouldn't you just love to be rich, girls?"

"We are rich," said Anne staunchly. "Why, we have sixteen years to our credit, and we're happy as queens, and we've all got imaginations, more or less. Look at that sea, girls - all silver and shallow and vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. You wouldn't change into any of those women if you could."

Or all the little things that Anne says, that are so simple and yet so right.

"Dear old world," she murmured, "you are very lovely, and I am very glad to be alive in you."

I honestly do feel like I have found a kindred spirit in Anne, and I can only hope that she would have found me to be a kindred spirit, too.

Book Nineteen: While I Was Gone

While I Was Gone, Sue Miller

This is one of those books that leaves you with a weird, unsettled feeling inside. I think part of that is due to the calm, lovely little world that Sue Miller sets up at the beginning. The normal, everyday life of our protagonist is almost peaceful. And so, because I knew that something was supposed to happen in this book, I had this little knot in my stomach whenever I picked it up--like something bad is about to happen now. My imagination was a bit worse than the reality of the story, and yet I still feel a little ooky inside.

I quite enjoyed the book and its characters and events. I liked Jo, I liked her family and her husband and the group of friends from her past. And I also quite like Sue Miller's writing. It's beautiful and description without being florid, and knowing without being obnoxious.

Book Eighteen: Then We Came to the End

Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris

Love love love love love this book. It is one of the rare books that made me laugh. Out loud. While reading it alone. Sure, you may have heard that it uses the "gimmick" of being in the first person plural (i.e. We), but I didn't find it at all gimmicky. In fact, once you read it you will realize that it could have been written no other way. And on top of being funny, it's incredibly sweet. And human.

All the characters in this office where the novel takes place, an advertising agency in the early aughts, are at once horrible and irritating and recognizable as that one guy you worked with at that job a few years ago, and yet i loved every single one of them. Perhaps I've been feeling charitable and good about humanity lately, but still. I wanted to embrace them all, take them in and tell them that it will all be alright.

Oh, and the ending! Such an ending!