Wednesday, June 25, 2014

These Happy Golden Years

Finished These Happy Golden Years, the eighth book in Laura Ingalls Wilder's series. It won the Newbery Honor Medal in 1944. Laura is fifteen now and teaching school in the Brewster settlement. She boards with the Brewsters in the tiny claim shanty. Mrs. Brewster is a bit mad. She is bitter and resentful of the family's situation and does not like having Laura in the house. She is a miserable, even dangerous person. This is all so shocking to Laura who has only ever had Ma and Pa's firm but kind example. Laura dreads the weekends in the house with this family, but is rescued from the situation by Almanzo Wilder, who travels the twelve miles each way, twice every weekend, to bring her home and then back to the settlement for her next week of teaching.

The money Laura earns from teaching goes to pay for Mary's attendance at The College for the Blind. Thankfully her teaching assignment is only two months long. Laura is surprised when Almanzo invites her for sled and buggy rides and to attend singing school with him. Laura works for a seamstress, Mrs. McKee, and lives with her and her children one summer on the McKee's claim to help out and keep her company. Mary comes home from college for a visit. She is a grown young woman now, with many accomplishments, despite her blindness.

After three years of courting, Almanzo proposes to Laura and she accepts. He builds them a house to live in and they marry in a hurry to prevent his mother and sister descending upon them to insist on a big church wedding. Ma helps Laura make clothes and linens for her new home. Almanzo and Laura are quietly married and drive away to their own little house on the prairie.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

We Are All Welcome Here

Finished We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg. Set in 1950s Mississippi, this is a poignant coming of age novel. Diana lives with her mother Paige who contracted Polio while she was pregnant and can now only move her head. Paige's father left them after she was born (scumbag). Paige spent the first part of her daughter's life in an iron lung. She was fiercely determined to be free of it and just as fiercely determined to raise her daughter, despite the urging of well meaning people for Paige to put Diana up for adoption.

Paige is raising her daughter, but not without help. Peacie comes every day to wash, dress and move Paige to her wheelchair. She does the cooking and housework, the shopping and a good bit of parenting as well. Piecie's boyfriend, LaRue, helps out a lot as well. Piecie is hard as nails, and Diana has many disagreements with her, but to Diana, LaRue is a prince. He's friendly, kind and dapper.

The mother and daughter have help from others in town who keep them on their radar and lend a hand. Money is tight though. Paige is not supposed to be alone at night. She employs another woman to get her to bed, but uses the balance of her the disability money she receives for groceries instead of a night attendant. Eventually things fall apart. Paige becomes ill and has to be hospitalized, their social worker finds out that there is no all night attendant, the sheriff discovers that Peacie is taking care of Diana at her house and warns her that this cannot continue. In the midst of all this LaRue gets caught up in local Civil Rights demonstrations. This book is electrically charged with difficult situations. Diana faces many adult issues as a young teen and must grow up quickly amidst personal and community turmoil. I listened to an audiobook recording of this book, read by the author. I recommend it to fans of Berg's work.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure

Finished Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris. This is the third book in her Chocolat series. My daughter bought it for me for Christmas thinking it was just a sequel. Neither of us realized that there was also a book in between, The Lollipop Shoes. Vianne, now living on a houseboat in Paris with Roux and her two daughters, receives a letter from her long dead friend Armande. Armande warns of trouble brewing in Lansquenet. She foretells that Vianne will be the one to help. Vianne retunds to the village with her daughters and find things very much changed and yet somehow the same. She makes unlikely allies and tries her best to ease broken ties between families and the community as a whole. Plenty of lovely magical realism here. Highly recommended to fans of Chocolat. I did not get the sense that I missed important plot points reading these out of order. I look forward to reading the middle book some time soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Joy Luck Club

Finished The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. This book has been on my TBR list for a very long time. I actually listened to an audiobook recording of it. At times I got a bit confused because there were so many different female characters and I could not refer to the text to get things straight. It's a bit like a Chinese Forsyte Saga. A character tree would have been helpful.

This multi-generational tale tells the story of each mother/daughter pair in their own voices. The voices and stories of the mothers who were born in China were far more interesting to me me than the stories of their daughters born in the states. Much of the book was bleak and so it was a long haul for me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Sugar Queen

Finished The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. This was a fun and charming bit of magical realism.