“Signs and Wonders” stories by Alix Ohlin
So the important thing to know from the start is that she was miserable.
These stories dig into the deep dark crevices of relationships between spouses, siblings, step-parent and child among others. I often felt like a voyeur, like I shouldn’t be witnessing I was witnessing. I slipped effortlessly into the world of each story, the characters luring me with their beauty and flaws.
What I learned: That prose can be simple yet the story and characters complicated.
“When It Happens to You” a novel in stories by Molly Ringwald
As far as Greta knew, there was nothing in the sky that night.
I am leery of works of fiction by celebrities. Think Nicole Richie, Pam Anderson, Tyra Banks, Hillary Duff, etc… It annoys me when novels are used as part of a brand. It diminishes the art of it. This is definitely my soapbox issue. But I will step down now and say that Ringwald’s novel in stories does not fall into the above category. I would love to hear an interview (heck, I’d love to actually interview her myself!) about her process of writing this book but it seemed to me, from the first sentence that this is a person who loves to write, who loves stories and loves her characters. This is not merely part of her brand. I completely forgot that I was reading something written by the girl from “Pretty in pink” or “Sixteen Candles.” I couldn’t put these down. It’s like reading a literary kaleidoscope, each story a prism that unites and complements the whole, characters showing up later and allowing you a glimpse into their side of the story. This book has definitely made it onto my permanent bookshelf.
What I learned: To not judge a book by its writer
“The Lakeshore Unlimited” a novel by Sue Miller
Because it was still afternoon, because she was in a strange room, because she was napping rather than sleeping (“I’ll just lie down for a bit and see what happens,” she’d told Pierce)–because of all this, she was aware of herself as she dreamed, at some level conscious of working to subvert the dream she was having, to make it come out another way, different from the way it was headed.
Billy, a playwright, uses the loss of her fiancé, Gus during 9/11 as inspiration for her latest play, The Lakeshore Limited.” When she used what Gus considered a private moment between them in an earlier play they argued about what, if anything, should be off limits. She says, “…I use everything. How could I not? And what I don’t use, I don’t use because it doesn’t work. Not because it’s sacred.” This just one of many threads in this beautifully structured novel about love and loss and art.
What I learned: That the way she structured this novel may point me in the right direction for my current WIP.
“The Pen/O.Henry Prize Stories, The Best Stories of the Year, 2009” editd by Laura Furman
I’m going to ask the Queen.
I often find it difficult to read best of anthologies like this. Dipping into different lives, cultures, countries and times can leave me a little disoriented. But these stories are worth the extra effort it may take. Each tale dazzles within its own complete, complex world taking us on a journey from Saigon to Egypt, from Cape Town to a newly and permanently dark New York City. The characters and their stories are just as rich as the settings.
What I learned: To widen my literary palette to include writers beyond my usual taste.
“The Gifts of Imperfection- Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.
Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.
When I saw Brown on Youtube giving a Ted talk, I knew I had to hear more of what she had to say, which led me to this book. (She has a newer one out.) I never really thought of myself as a perfectionist, but several people over the years have mentioned how hard I am on myself, which she addresses. I underlined so much in this book, it’s like she was speaking directly to me. Her voice is engaging and she’s able to blend her research with stories.
What I learned: That I’m not the only one.