It’s hard to believe that another school year is over. As our kids revel in the freedom of summer vacation, we mamas get to bask in relief that we made it through another demanding year and can enjoy a short (albeit busy) pause before the start of a new one. With that in mind, here are a few reading picks from the Literary Mama Staff for the beach, pool, plane, or garden lounger.
Christina Consolino, Senior Editor and Profiles Editor, offers a suggestion for a family- themed read: “Sharon Harrigan’s Playing with Dynamite: A Memoir is an engaging, complex book. It propels the reader through time as Harrigan tries to make sense of her father’s untimely death, which occurred when she was seven years old. Harrigan’s journey begins when, as an adult, she writes an essay that raises questions about her father’s death and the accuracy of her memories. Digging into the past, Harrigan realizes that her memories do not necessarily match those of her siblings or her mother, and she comes to question what ‘truth’ really entails. The book will appeal to readers drawn to stories about complicated family dynamics, and it might make you look at your own family through a new lens. I know that since reading the memoir, I’ve been thinking about some of my own childhood memories, how ‘true’ those memories might actually be, and the role that memories of the past play in establishing our future.”
Andrea Lani, Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor, has this recommendation: “I recently finished To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey. The book tells the story of an explorer, Colonel Forrester, as he leads a small expedition into Alaska’s interior in the early 1900s. We also meet his wife, Sophie, left back home at the army barracks, pregnant, alone, and searching for a medium to express herself. It’s written in epistolary style, as if pieced together from journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings, book excerpts, and other paper ephemera, which I thought at first might be distracting, but was in fact very engaging. Ivey does a wonderful job capturing the voices of the various authors and correspondents. Like Ivey’s first book, The Snow Child, there’s a heavy dose of the mystical, or perhaps the mythical, with Native American legends coming to life in bizarre but believable ways. Elements of historical obstetrics, natural history, and early photography also make their way into the narrative, combining to make an altogether fascinating read.”
Libby Maxey, Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor, found this literary classic on the library shelves: “I recently finished reading Elizabeth Hardwick’s 1979 novel Sleepless Nights, and although it was a library copy, I’m buying my own. I haven’t read anything in a long time that made me so eager to write, to find out what more words can do. Hardwick is most famous for her critical essays and short stories (indeed, one section of this book first appeared in The New Yorker), but this novel often feels like a series of prose poems paying tribute to memory. As the narrator looks back on her life, she sees it like a series of scattered yet vivid dreams, each featuring comparatively minor players: a woman encountered at a party, another met in Holland, a New York roommate, a nodding acquaintance from the same building, the woman who did the washing in Maine. These glimpses of humanity decentralize the narrator from her own memoir; as she puts it, ‘On the battered calendar of the past, the back-glancing flow of numbers, I had imagined there would be felicitous notations of entrapments and escapes, days in the South with their insinuating feline accent . . . And myself there, marking the day with an I . . . And yet the old pages of the days and weeks are splattered with the dark-brown rings of coffee cups and I find myself gratefully dissolved.’ ”
What happens to your reading time in the summer vacation? Do you get more, or less? We’d love to hear in the comments below.