TWO RECENT READS

Boston Girl by Anita Diamont (author of the bestselling The Red Tent) was the selected book for November at my “new” book club.  I knew everyone present, several for thirty years, and only one woman was a new acquaintance. The discussion was insightful and the study guide questions in the back of the paperback edition were the source of many interesting comments and answers. Here is my brief review of the 2014 novel:

Addie Braum, the Boston girl of the title, is the third child of a three sister family, the only one of the three born in the U.S. A brother, born on the ship on the way to America, died, and was buried at sea. Through her story, the author explores “love, friendship, and family.” Through her membership in The Library Club and a summer’s stay at Rockport Lodge, run by women who are forward-thinking women and attended by becoming-liberated girls, Adie changes and comes in conflict with her immigrant parents. Her mother, a vengeful, never-satisfied, and just-plain-mean-spirited woman often thwarts Adie’s desires to become educated and attend college. Later in the novel, her husband, a true mensch, encourages Adie in ways she has never been loved or encouraged before. In the novel, more than just a coming-of-age story, we see a picture of WWI, WWII, and postwar America. We see changes in Addie as well as in the culture and make up of the U.S.A. The book club gave the novel a “grade” of B+.  I would give it four out of five points. It is a darned good read.

The other day I finished Jeanette Walls’ “true life novel,” Half Broke Horses, which I gave a full five points out of a possible five. It is the story of Lily Casey Smith, Walls’ grandmother, whom a review described as a “woman of gumption.” And how she needed it!  Throughout the story, Lily experiences  floods, tornadoes, droughts and a fire, all the while surviving the Great Depression. The writing is “plainspoken, yet heartfelt” (Chicago Tribune). I agree wholeheartedly with People magazine which writes it is “impossible to forget.” Half Broke Horses has been described by one reviewer as “Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults.” I was especially interested in her adventures and misadventures as a teacher and her unique teaching methods.  Photos added a great deal to the book and reminded the reader that it is all based on the life of a real woman. It is a perfect example of short, sweet, matter-of-fact writing while it deals with horrific issues, It is one of the best novels I have read this year.