September Book Marks
Indian summer. It’s described as a period (usually in the northeast) of unseasonably warm and dry weather. It’s that shortish stretch of perfect temperature to be outside, or sleep with the windows open. It’s still shorts and skorts weather, flip flops with a sweatshirt, the days just before there’s a real nip in the air. It was Indian summer that fateful day of September 11th. It was Indian summer when I was married, the cloudless, cobalt sky mirrored in a lake still warm enough for swimming.
Transitions of seasons and transitions in life, like the empty nest, are bulge moments when sometimes the world seems wobbly. They cause us to revisit who we are, what we want to do and what actually makes us happy. They force us to slow down. What a concept.
As summer gives way to pumpkins on porches and the darkness arrives earlier each night, it’s the cozy season again to tuck in with a book. I’m still multi-tasking in the reading department, listening to stories on audible and trying to cram a few chapters in bed with a hardback before my eyes get too heavy. My once super regimented life is adjusting to less rigidity with the kids gone. I still listen for footsteps. Still reach for the family sized pack of grapes in the supermarket. The dog is older too. Not so eager to go out all the time. The two of us left in the house (and the dog) are slowing down like cooling planets, cycling back from summer, downshifting to a gentler speed.
This fall I’m going to read more books, eat more popcorn, give in to my addiction to Sour Patch kids. I’m going to sleep later and work out less. Sure, I may need to invest in some elastic waist pants, but I’ve earned it. So pull up a book, maybe one of the selections below or something you’ve been meaning to read. Lets get down to it. Let’s make the world go away for just a little while.
This month’s featured Indie Bookstore is River Run Bookstore in New Hampshire. Why, you ask? Because there’s nothing better than a little fall foliage once the Indian summer is gone. riverrunbookstore.com
Crossings: A Doctor-Soldier’s Story by Jon Kerstetter
Growing up on an Indian reservation, Kerstetter understood the meaning of boundaries and was determined not to be defined by them. Breaking free of societal expectations he excelled in every aspect of his life, going from college graduate to business executive to a medical doctor at the age of 37. Frustrated by the mundane cases passing through his ER, Kerstetter yearned to do more with his life and at the age of 42, he was commissioned in the Iowa National guard as a flight surgeon. His career as a military doctor took him to many foreign lands, conflicts and wars. Yet at the peak of his career, a stroke put an end to the life he had known, leaving him in pain and with many deficits. His next chapter would be the soul-crushing battle to recover and reclaim his identity.
This beautifully written memoir takes us through an amazing and somewhat improbable life while trying to explain the complex and contradictory relationship between killing and healing. “It’s natural and unnatural, that genetic code, to know as much about killing as healing, to listen for sounds of bullets in one moment and then listen for the sounds of the wounded in the next…pull a trigger, pack a wound,” writes the author. Indeed.
The Glass Ocean by “Team W” by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White
One can only imagine the fun process of three accomplished writers teaming up to write a story about love, war and betrayal set during the last voyage of the Lusitania. The book sweeps through time, encompassing three generations in an “Upstairs Downstairs” vein mixed with “Titanic,” including one sizzling love triangle. Beneath decks, a couple of luxury liner grifters are caught up in a murky espionage plot that is well over their heads. With WW1 as the backdrop, rumors of U-Boats and torpedoes contribute to the tension onboard and threaten to draw the Americans into the war. This is both a well-researched story and a fun read. It brought me back to a 5th grade history paper I wrote about the sinking of the Lusitania. If I’d only known what really went on in the berths back then!
Reagan- An American Journey by Bob Spitz
The accomplished and talented author of the best-selling Julia Child biography “Dearie,” turns his attention to detail and story-telling skills to the subject of Ronald “Dutch” Reagan. Conducting exhaustive interviews over a five-year period and with access to previous unavailable documents, Spitz paints a detailed picture of one of America’s most iconic presidents with a writing style that feels more like novel than non-fiction. He deft writing and detailed descriptions take us from “Dutch’s” hardscrabble early days with a drunken and often unemployed father to his beginnings as a local radio announcer. Vivid scenes and dialogue move us through Hollywood and his first marriage, to meeting Nancy, Reagan’s growing interest in politics and then the ultimate prize– president of the most powerful nation in the world. Spitz writes movingly about Reagan’s courageous announcement of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis at the end of his life. At a time in politics where the world feels cleaved into extremes, this poignant and well-written book is a reminder that great statesman can often transcend bi-partisan ship and lead.
The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham
Markham had been reporting on undocumented immigration for more than a decade when she first met the Flores twins at Oakland International High School in California. Terrified at the consequence of having missed their date in immigration court, they were caught in the vicious cycle and system of illegal immigrants in this country. Fleeing grinding poverty and violence in El Salvador, the Flores twins story mirrors the gripping and profoundly sad journey that so many children make to come to America for a “better” life. The story unfolds through shelters and prisons, the complete chaos of El Salvador, gang violence and the terrifying trip across the border. The twins are touched by robbery, rape, violence and murder while contending with total instability, self harm and PTSD. The author’s painstaking research and storytelling skills draw us in from the beginning. What do these children risk? Is it worth it? And how does all of this impact our country during the present time of domestic turmoil?
This quote reminded me that with history, we need to take the long view… “ The United States is young and ever reiterating itself as demanded by its people, both those who have lived here a long time and those who have just arrived. Immigrants have always shaped our country’s future.”
I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan
Two unsolved murder cases… twenty years apart. The first was the murder of two young boys, dumped in a pit near the dog track in a British town. When their childhood friend returns home to investigate the murder and splash it all over his podcast, long-buried secrets are unleashed. A young mother’s mysterious past, the shady boyfriend, the corrupt cop and now someone who has decided to take matters into their own hands. Known for a fast burning story, quick dialogue and a surprise twist ending, this is the book to take with you on a plane flight or anywhere you want to immerse yourself and make time fly.
A Dress The Color of the Sky by Jennifer Irwin
Anyone looking for a way to escape into a good read with every element of a good Netflix series, this is your book. Prudence Aldrich is married to a cold and detached man and her life has become filled with random sexual encounters with strangers that are profoundly disturbing and self-punishing. When she decides to get things back on track and check into rehab, Prudence begins to unravel the basis of her lack of self-respect as she deconstructs her past. She’s also forced to deal with some hard truths. Maybe the dissolution of her marriage isn’t all Nicks fault and how much does she want to make it work?
Written from the perspective of a sex addict and a woman on the brink, this book is both a fast and breezy read. But it’s also a vivid insight into the way addiction works, the imprint and tenacity of our childhood experiences and the ways in which we can heal ourselves with determination.