September-October 2019 Book Marks
Just about every woman I know read “Little Women” when they were young. I can still picture myself curled on up a 70’s mustard corduroy chair in our living room, completely absorbed by the indomitable March women. I related to Jo and her moxie. A little bit tomboy, a little bit rebel. The perfect heroine for a 70’s chick.
The fact that my parents moved to Concord, Mass, home of the Louisa May Alcott house and scene of the March’s adventures, connects me further to these little women every time I drive to visit my Mom.
It seems that each generation we get a chance to revisit this classic tale of four young women determined to live life on their own terms during the backdrop of our country’s bloody Civil War. And if you haven’t read the wonderful book “March,” by Geraldine Brooks, run out and get that one too. It looks at the story from the point of view of the absent father, who is off serving in the war for the North.
And on December 25th a new movie version of the story opens in theaters with a world-class cast. Directed by Greta Gerwig, it stars Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Laura Dern as Marmee, Timothee Chalamet as Laurie and… drumroll….. Meryl Streep as Aunt March.
So now that the calendar has flipped to October, this is your two-month warning to grab a copy of the book and give it a re-read. And for the book club gang, it’s the perfect pick. Read, sip, discuss and then everyone can watch the movie. What’s better?
And for the rest of the weeks of the month, here are some other suggestions hot off the presses for September and October reads.
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
Hoffman is one of my all-time favorite authors. She deftly weaves a little magic into every story in such a way that the reader believes anything is possible. Her recent book is set in 1941 in Berlin as the Nazi’s power is tightening into a fist. In order to save her daughter Lea, Hanni Kohn must send her away. Hoffman conjures a rare and unusual golem, a mystical Jewish creature in order to protect Lea. The journey moves to Paris and on to a convent in Western France where 3,000 Jews were saved. During humanity’s darkest hour, Hoffman delivers a story of love, loss, resistance and hope, threading it with just enough of the fantastical to keep us turning every page. And – side note– if you haven’t read Hoffman’s “The Red Garden,” put that one on your list too.
When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Noth Gaffigan
Being half of a comedy-writing duo, (and married to a famous comedian) doesn’t inoculate you from the bad thing in life. But it does ensure that when you write a memoir about getting a pear-shaped brain tumor as the mother of five young children at the peak of your career, it’s going to be funny. In fact Gaffigan’s writing takes a bad thing and finds a humorous and witty way to make, well, pear-ade out of pears. I met Jeannie Gaffigan outside the skanky women’s bathroom in the basement of NYC’s Town Hall, where her husband Jim was performing at one of our early “Stand UP for Heroes” veteran fundraisers. While squat-peeing in the dusty basement bathroom, my borrowed Cartier diamond bracelet dropped in the toilet. And Jeannie was just the kind of friend to fish it right out with bare hands and without hesitating. I’ve loved her ever since. So, beyond the humor, black-hearted honesty, bald-faced truisms and the universal parenting snapshots, the book contains serious moments about faith, what really matters and the many gifts of discovery in Jeannie’s miraculous recovery (spoiler alert—she survives and is as funny as ever, maybe more so.) If Tina Fey had three more kids and needed brain surgery (God forbid) this is the book she would write.
Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman
Most women understand the “perfection trap.” The expectation is that you work hard, keep a perfect home, know the answers to all questions, fix the family problems and never let anyone see you sweat. Sylvie Snow knows this all too well as she wheels through her days food shopping, folding laundry, PTA-ing, planning her son’s Bar Mitzvah and caregiving her husband as he recovers from a broken ankle. But unbeknownst to her family, she’s become addicted to the Oxycontin prescribed for her spouse.
It began three years after her newborn daughter was stillborn. On the anniversary of her death, at the very bottom of the tank, she takes just one of her husband’s pain pills, and feels…lighter. “I’ll stop when they run out,” she says to herself. But that doesn’t happen. The story devolves into a nightmare that must be faced and fixed before the entire family can move forward.
Grown & Flown – How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family and Raise Independent Adults by Lisa Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington
Any parent of a teenager knows that this stage of child-rearing is where the real work begins. The physical exhaustion of chasing toddlers is no match for the extended roller coaster of school, social life, mean kids, friendships, broken hearts, first loves and potential dangers that lurk as we help our children navigate the shoals of high school and college. As kids change, so must our parenting. The challenge of staying close and connected as a family only increases. That’s why the authors created the website Grown & Flown, which reaches millions of parents each month with children ages 15-25. This book is a wonderfully rich compendium of so much great information and wisdom, from the mundane (shopping for the dorm) to the serious (what if my child self-harms?) This book is packed with highly readable practical advice, individual stories and professional guidance. It’s a great gift for every parent, even if you aren’t there yet.
One Day by Gene Weingarten
December 28, 1986. It all began with one day. Pulitzer-prize winning author and journalist Weingarten got the idea to ask three people to pull numbers out of a hat and that would form the day, month and year that he would choose to write about a completely random 24-hours in history. The result is an incredibly well-written and engrossing book about an ordinary day in America. On this Sunday in America, Regan was president, Stephen King’s “It” was at the top of the book list and “Walk Like an Egyptian” was the hot song. Throughout the country, stories were happening on every scale and Weingarten digs in with prose that makes each vignette worthy of your total attention. From the organ transplant that saved a life with a murderer’s heart, to the house fire that set generational events in motion, to a political cover up and on it goes. Each chapter reads like a novella with human indecencies, triumphs, heartbreak and redemption.
I might have been the last person to know there was an island where pigs swim. But for anyone who has visited, or wants to visit, the island of Exuma (flashback to the Fyre festival debacle) this book is a comprehensive romp through the history of this 365-island archipelago with its pirate hide-aways, drug king pin escapes, Spanish adventurers and more. With beautiful photographs and interviews from historians, ecologists, famous pig owners and boat captains, this book is a look at one of the most popular bucket list items for Caribbean travelers.
Lee Woodruff Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer