Monday Mini Reviews

mini reviews

Absalom’s Daughters by Suzanne Feldman (source: publisher)

“Half sisters, one black and one white, on a 1950s road trip through the American South.” You know,  I enjoyed the whole unlikely-friends-taking-a-road-trip storyline. But the characters felt surface-level; I wanted more depth. The depiction of the South as one big backwoods entity wasn’t realistic. Also, the dialect didn’t sound like a Mississippi dialect at all! Worse, the dialect stayed exactly the same whether they were speaking to people in Mississippi, Alabama, or South Carolina. It was an okay read, but I was left feeling underwhelmed.

A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman & Andrew Coe (source: publisher)

This book started out great. It was interesting to see how sedentary lives played a part in having more fruits and vegetables in the diet, how food-related marketing (and woo) has a loooong history in our country, and how food preparation changed from purely functional (calories in!) to mindful (“health, vitamin, and beauty appeals”). The hunger problem prevalent during the Great Depression brought up questions that are still important today: How do we feed the poor and treat them with dignity? Who deserves the “best” nutrition when emergency rations are the norm on a widespread level? What happens to social programs when the “deserving poor” end up being a huge chunk of the population? Who are the “deserving poor,” anyhow? Unfortunately, after 100 pages or so the book started to feel dry and tedious, and I eventually ended up setting it aside. (But not before skimming through the rest to peek at the recipes that were interspersed throughout.)

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi (source: publisher)

“When feminist writer Susan Faludi learned that her 76-year-old father—long estranged and living in Hungary—had undergone sex reassignment surgery, she begins an extraordinary inquiry into the meaning of identity in the modern world and in her own haunted family saga.” I think this was the most uncomfortable read I’ve had all year. It’s unsettling. I cringed many times. I couldn’t read it straight through. I kept having to set it aside to read something else.  Jennifer Finney Boylan posted that Faludi’s memoir is “brilliant and kind and disturbing.” And it is. But wow, it was really hard for me to push through.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (source: my TuneIn Radio subscription)

Let’s leave on a happy note. THIS BOOK!!! You know, sometimes when you’re hurting, you need someone to acknowledge it. Sometimes you need a blunt “yeah, this really, really sucks.” Well-meaning “it’ll be okay” comments that people tend to give can feel dismissive. But Cheryl Strayed calls it straight, giving people plenty of space to feel all the shitty feelings that they need to, getting to the nuances within their circumstances, while giving advice that provides hope, comfort, true caring, and deeper understanding. No platitudes here. LOVED this book.

  • That’s EXACTLY how I feel about Tiny Beautiful Things. So glad you read it 😉

  • I just listened to this one on audio and LOVED it too! I took so long to read it b/c I was skeptical of the whole advice column premise, but Shannon finally made me. I’ve since bought a hard copy for my library and given another hard copy to a friend who recently lost her mother….who is now raving about it too.