April 2019 Book Marks
When I was a junior in high school, my parents announced to my sisters and me that we were moving from Albany to Buffalo. A distance of only a few hundred miles, it might have been the other side of the moon to a 16 year-old who was perfectly happy in her New York State public school. After I graduated in 1978, my family away and I have rarely made it back to Western New York. Just this month I was honored with a Distinguished Alumni award from my high school and went back to stay with one of my friends and revisit the old stomping grounds. (Did people really stomp? And why?) As I toured the town, I marveled at the prism of memory, bending and refracting the images I had in my head; the hill that once seemed so steep, the yard that had felt so expansive, I’m sure you can relate.
I was delighted to see The Book Worm bookstore, reminding me that the best of towns are measured by the caliber of their public schools, the library, the level of excellent healthcare and of course, whether or not they have an indie book store. East Aurora New York gets to check that box!
And if you find yourself in this sweet town, don’t miss “The Roycroft Inn” with its Craftsman style architecture and items for sale and make sure you walk into Vidlers, one of the old time, family owned Five & Dimes that seem to be rarer than hen’s teeth these days.
Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman
Every Elinor Lipman novel has a signature style that combines smart and witty characters with warmth, humor and usually a dash of rom-com fun. Her newest novel, which I inhaled in order to get it into this month’s blog, delivers the same satisfying experience with a strong, angsty but loveable protagonist. Daphne Maritch discards a 1968 yearbook that she has inherited from her deceased mother, complete with numerous intimate notations made during class reunions over the decades. When the yearbook falls into the hands of a busy-body neighbor who intends to make a documentary out of the class’s stories, new information is uncovered that will rock Daphne’s world and lead to a series of madcap events. A colorful supporting cast including her father, the sexy actor across the hall and a lawyer from New Hampshire, add to the intrigue. Note- if you’ve never read Lipman’s “The Inn at Lake Devine,” it’s on my all-time fave books list.
Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson
It’s the eve of September 11th and three young female friends and West Point cadets are living three different lives. Back when they first met, Dani was the athletic and confident star point guard, Hannah came from a Texas legacy military family and Avery was the charismatic and rebellious homecoming queen. Life, love and war have taken them in different directions and the story unfolds as the women struggle to maintain friendships, marriages and careers amidst both triumph and tragedy. Growing up at West Point, with her father as a professor, the author has witnessed the untold story of so many strong and ambitious women. It was their love, and how they cared for their friends, rather than their accomplishments, that inspired her to write this novel.
The Editor by Steven Rowley
Set in 1990’s Manhattan, a young writer named James Smale is thrilled to learn he has sold his first book, a thinly veiled memoir that is fooling no one in his family. His relationships with said family, especially his mother, are strained to non-existent. At his first publishing house meeting he is stunned to learn that his editor is none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis. So begins the sweet and tender heart of this book, encased in hero worship, friendship, some heartache and a large dash of soul-searching. When in the course of writing, James learns a secret that threatens to upend his book revisions, Jackie helps James confront some truths and repair his complicated relationships.
Savage News by Jessica Yellin
In her real-life perch as former White House Correspondent for CNN, Yellin had the perfect bird’s eye view of the crazy, the faced paced, the breaking (and not-so-breaking) world of the global news cycle. A highly-entertaining read that can be gobbled in a few bites, Yellin’s funny, breezy story saran wraps some of today’s hard truths from the disintegration of hard news and ethics, to sexual harassment and what it takes to succeed as a reporter with a front row seat.
American Spirit: Profiles in Resilience, Courage, and Faith by Tara Kyle and Jim DeFelice
As the widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, Tara is well-versed with the issue of resilience and how to find strength in sharing stories. This book is the ripple effect that she hopes will inspire others. Travelling across America as a speaker, this book is a collection of 30 American stories from various walks of life; the common thread being that all have done extraordinary things for their communities and the nation at large, mostly under the radar. From the Navy Seal who uses horses to help cure PTS to a reality star who helps the homeless, this book is just the thing we need to remember the very best parts of America are right in our backyards.
Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown-up Years by Cathy Guisewite
The first “Cathy” comic strip debuted in 1976, at a time when the funny papers were dominated by men and male characters. Cathy’s character was refreshing. Her thought bubbles revealed the honest insecurities, running interior monologues and vulnerabilities held by (mostly white and middle class) women who were trying to reconcile the often competing messages of home and family with the women’s lib movement. Cathy’s nagging and self-deprecating questions about food, love, mom and career quickly found a fan base… and an entire industry was born. It would be easy in light of today’s politically sensitive and post #metoo movement to dismiss Cathy’s musings as frivolous and undercutting “gurl power,” but that would make the mistake of using today’s lens to examine a different time. Cathy gave voice to the turbulence and ambivalence of the times, the confluence of the past and future crashing together.
Like all of us, Cathy, and her creator, Cathy Guisewite, eventually grew up. And in this first project since ending her comic strip, the author’s funny and poignant observations about aging make for a great book of essays from a very “Cathy” point of view.