Books of the New Year
Ya-Yas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells: I’ve had this book for years, tucked on a bookshelf with its $.25 yard sale sticker in place. I enjoyed Wells’ infamous “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” novel to the point of long referring to my girlfriends as the Yas. We’ve been the Yas since 2000 and we will remain forever more.
The sequel couldn’t ever live up to the first. I’ll never forget our happiness crowding into the now defunct Tempe theater to see our book – a book that for once encapsulated the joys and sorrows of having girlfriends who are your blood, your breath – on the big screen. We invited our mothers and smushed together with giant boxes of popcorn and vats of Diet Coke. These women on screen were our southern counterparts.
I can tell you where I was when I read Wells’ primary novel the first time and the second. While “In Bloom” doesn’t come as close to my heart, it is still fun. It had the ability to make my eyes brim and my heart ache to have my legs intertwined with those girls I love the most.
Caro puts another log on the fireplace. “Tell me more, Vivi,” she says.
Vivi looks at her friend, and thinks, ‘Those three words are as good as the words I love you.’
I come from a garden of gabbers. We love to tell our stories. To have the entire group’s rapt attention typically means something has gone so very right or so very wrong. Regardless, you tingle. The attention fuels the details of your stories. Your arms dance in front of you, expressing their own version of the story. Your head shakes just so. Your brow either eventually arcs with a wide relief of joy, or the down crest wallop of sorrow. With my Yas, I tell the last few lines of my stories embraced, smelling their sweet hair on my shoulders, feeling their hands on my back, knowing their love is within me.*
Three out of five bananas, absoloodle.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is an epic novel I will think of a decade from now, still considering the characters and wondering what they would be doing today. At more than 600 pages, this is not a novel for the less than motivated. The story is that of twin brothers born in an Ethiopian hospital under less than desirable genetic circumstances. Their mother is a nun. Their father is an esteemed surgeon at the hospital.
The story speaks of their childhood – one tormented by politics and circumstance. There is so much to say about this great book, but so little I want to reveal; it is a tale you must experience for yourself. There are few stories I’ve read that have touched me so profoundly. I dreamed of these characters for days after finishing the book, hoping for a continuation.
“Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”
This is one of those books that you happen upon every ten years – a book that will change the way you look at life and give you more satisfaction for the existence you have.
Five out of five bananas, absoloodle.
Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain is a memoir of a Francophile family who during World War II must flee their lovely French home for a new post in Boston. With a twist of fortune, they are able to bring their esteemed French help – a woman named Clementine – with them. Her adventures in both French and American markets and cooking is a fun read, although a bit heavy in recipes that I couldn’t ever follow.
I’m pathetically American. I’m not a fan of snails or cream. While I enjoy the occasional leek, I crave a casserole of homemade macaroni and cheese, a plate of stewed green chile with homemade tortillas, and my father’s barbequed chicken.
This book is a fun memoir of an exceptionally well-heeled American family’s exploits in French living and cooking upon return to the homeland. I appreciated Clementine’s spunk, but the tone, theme and contents were a bit too pretentious for this All-American girl.
Two out of five bananas, absoloodle.
The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony is a must-read for anyone who loves Africa. I borrowed this book, among others, from Matty’s family bookcase on the tea estate in Malawi. It is the true story of Anthony, and his French wife Francoise on their game estate in South Africa. Thula Thula unexpectedly becomes home to a family of misbehaving elephants.
The next 400 pages are a sweet story of how one man with incredible patience, a diligent staff and a loving girlfriend, transform the veldt to yet again include a family of Africa’s largest mammals.
I’ll be sending this book out to several friends when I return to the States. It is such a delightful tale.
“There is nothing more energizing than inhaling the tang of wilderness, loamy after rain, pungent with the richness of earth shuddering with life, or taking in the brisk dry cleanness of winter. In the outback, life is lived in the instant. The land thrums with exuberance when everything is green and lush and is stoically resilient when it isn’t. In the bush, simple acts give intense atavistic pleasures, such as sliding a sprig of grass into a tiny slot of a scorpion hole and feeling a tug that pound for pound would rival a game fish. Even today that triggers of my born-free adolescence as vividly as a lovelorn youth recalling his first heart-thudding kiss.”
“Such is Africa, the flawed, beautiful, magnificent, beguiling, mystical, unique, life-changing continent … seductive in its charm and charisma, its ancient wisdom so often stained by unfathomable spasms of blood.”
Four out of five bananas, absoloodle.
*I might be a bit homesick.