There are times you pick up a book, and it becomes a fast friend you can’t imagine letting go. I haven’t read a book in a while that I couldn’t put down, but I do so love that feeling.
In her selection, Social Media Editor Caryn Mohr captures the intensity with which you can love a good book: “I just devoured Silent Running: Our Family’s Journey to the Finish Line with Autism by Robyn K. Schneider and former Literary Reflections Editor Kate Hopper. The book delves into universal themes of loss, hope, and resilience that resonated deeply with me as a parent of children with special needs. Spanning from her twin sons’ dual diagnosis of severe autism at a time before it was a household word to their first marathon finish, Robyn Schneider advocates for her sons’ needs unrelentingly. Many mothers will see themselves in her drive to build a joyful life that is different from what she had imagined; she honors their needs without letting them define her children. Robyn’s positive attitude even in the face of her and her husband’s own medical issues is an inspiration to any parents facing adversity who have worried about what would happen to their kids. This is a triumphant story told with love and honesty, complexities and realities; it’s a powerful tribute to the sons at the heart of it. I couldn’t put it down.”
On the flip side, there are times a book can stir intense mixed feelings, simultaneously intriguing and bewildering a reader. Literary Reflections Editor Libby Maxey describes how the self-destructive and unresolved characters can stick with you as much or more so than the content ones. “I’ve just finished Alice Munro’s Dear Life. This is the first collection of her stories that I’ve read, and it was a curious experience. I found her prose unremarkable at the sentence level and, after a while, I grew weary of all the infidelity and death. Munro’s sense of humor is so dry as to be largely imperceptible; it’s certainly no match for the gloominess that pervades the book. Even so, I found Dear Life hard to abandon, perhaps because it feels wrong to turn one’s back on that kind of honesty. There is no pandering here, no writerly frippery, no false resolutions. In the final story, one of a group set apart as autobiographical, Munro remembers reading in childhood The Magic Mountain, a tale of tuberculosis referenced in an earlier story. She describes it as ‘containing a great argument between what on one side seemed to be a genial and progressive notion of life and, on the other, a dark and somehow thrilling despair.’ Although Munro’s taste for despair is evident and her stories seem to me more to be regretted than enjoyed, they stick—much as The Magic Mountain stuck with her. I keep thinking about her various characters, all haunted and unfulfilled and unsettling.”
For those signs of spring that will be popping up soon enough, Managing Editor Karna Converse gives us a way to reimagine the messages flowers can communicate: “The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, has been on my to-read list since it was first named to the Indie Next List in (gasp!) 2011, and I’m glad I finally made time to read it. Diffenbaugh has crafted a character (Victoria Jones) who is as endearing as she is irritating. Recently emancipated from the foster-care system in which she grew up, Victoria finds herself with no place to go and no understanding of what to do. A chance encounter with a florist helps her discover a gift for helping others communicate with flowers which leads, ultimately, to the realization that a flower can carry more than one meaning and the need to find answers to questions that have haunted her for eight years. Diffenbaugh’s debut novel is based loosely on her experience as a foster mother and in particular, the experiences with one of her foster daughters whose behavior caused her to ask: ‘What is it like to try to love if you’ve never been loved yourself?'”
If, like me, you’ve ever lived in or dreamed of the English countryside, you’ll want to check out Literary Reflections Editor Andrea Lani‘s selection: “I just finished reading Lark Rise to Candleford, a compilation of Flora Thompson’s three memoirs of life in a small hamlet and village in rural England in the 1880s and 1890s. The books are more memoirs of place and time, than of Thompson’s life; her childhood self, referred to in the third person as ‘Laura,’ serves as more observer of the world around her than main character, particularly in the first book. From her perch in the 1940s, Thompson writes with astonishing detail and great affection, yet avoids being sentimental. What struck me most about the books was that while the people in the hamlet of Lark Rise lived a very different life than we do today, much of their attitudes, behaviors, and political leanings rang very familiar, proving true the old adage, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.'”
Finally, columnist Cassie Premo Steele offers a good read for a weekend away: “I am spending my Saturday reading a memoir by a Turkish woman writer, Elif Shafak, called Black Milk: On the Conflicting Demands of Writing, Creativity, and Motherhood. I am loving it so much—I have decided to write about it for my next Birthing the Mother Writer column. Filled with wisdom, wit, and the voices of the author’s inner self and women writers and philosophers, it is a must-read for Literary Mamas!”