Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks
What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
The end of the year is always this sweet, slow, beautiful time for me. My mom, my sister and I all like to get the decorating for the holidays done prior to Thanksgiving- that way we can sit back and relax and enjoy the cozily lit rooms. The students at the University all head home for the holidays too, and so work and Boulder are just a little bit calmer and quieter. I usually plan on taking the stretch between Christmas and New Year's off to read, watch movies, spend time with family, grab coffee with friends. It's very restorative. This year was no different. That said, I read some good stuff in December! Let's dig in, shall we?
Salt Houses- This was a beautiful fiction debut from a Palestinian-American poet. The book covers a several generations of a family and the cycles of displacement. First this family is uprooted from Palestine by the Six-Day War of 1967 only to later be displaced from Kuwait after Saddam Hussein's invasion. Each of the generations of the family has a bevy of characters for you to know and love. I first heard of this book on NPR and I went out and picked it up on my lunch that day... and then it sat on my shelf for months (not unusual). But, it's a beauty of a book and I think the more we read about other countries, even if it's fictional accounts we can grow our compassion for the refugee plight. Click here for the NPR interview.
The Husband's Secret- After reading and then loving the Big Little Lies tv series, I knew I needed more Liane Moriarty in my life. Next up for me was The Husband's Secret which will be turning into a feature film starring Blake Lively soon. This book didn't grab me the way Big Little Lies did, but it was still entertaining and quick. This one revolves around 3 women in a town, one of which her husband has a secret that affects them all in one way or another. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not in love with it.
Uncommon Type- This book is a delight from someone who is a national treasure: Tom Hanks. Each little short story contains an old fashioned typewriter in one way or another, and it's just so #AnalogAsFolk and so charming. This book shows little hints of Hanks' own personal politics- like when a group of friends cheer and get emotional as their friend becomes a US citizen, or in stories where it's clear that he believes in the 4th estate- a free press and good ol fashioned journalism. The stories transcend the time we are in, they seem like they are searching for a bit of an older time. But not in a "Make America Great Again" type of way.... more in a make humanity great type of way. In a connected way... but not superficially or digitally, more like in a connected to each other- eye contact and kisses on Christmas Eve by the glow of the tree kind of way. Or a connection to self- unplugging so that you have time to connect with your heart and to type on an old fashioned typewriter "the meditations of your heart". *Sigh* So good!
Perhaps my favorite review of the book comes from the essayist Roxane Gay and it comes in the form of a diss, she says,
"These stories are aggressively competent and aggressively bland. There is a very old fashioned feel to them as if the author yearns for simpler times. The present day stories make sure to note things like iPhones and podcasts as if to remind us that he knows technology exists. The stories also portray a pleasant, multiethnic world where everything has gone the way of Benetton ads and all is well among all of us. But the stories have no teeth. They aren’t memorable. They are aggressively competent but they aren’t necessarily good and they certainly aren’t bad. They just are. Alas."
But this is exactly why I love it.... He IS competent, and it is multiethnic, and it may not have teeth. But it has heart. And call me sentimental, but isn't that exactly what the world needs right now? Loved the book and look forward to hearing more of Tom Hanks voice in the future.
What Unites Us- Talk about old fashioned... but God I loved this book too! Dan Rather is proof that not all old white men are dicks. He has seen and reported so much of our history and even through all the ugliness he still sees the potential of how great this country can be. He's not some government bashing-anarchist, which I know it is so trendy to be these days. He is a patriot, in the truest sense of the word. He sees us for all of our flaws and for all of the potential of what we could be. I loved this sweet book, but I am left wondering if I love it because we have so many of the same views- like would a Trump supporter read it and still see what unites us? Or would they chalk it up as liberal propaganda? I don't know. I for one, think it is beautiful.
Stay with Me- You know those stories that you would read in elementary- fables- stories that were designed to teach some lesson. I feel like Stay with Me is kind of like that mixed with a big old fashioned Shakespearean drama. It starts out innocent enough, but things take a turn when the main female character is having troubles getting pregnant. Pressure from her mother in law, and the mental toll infertility takes on a woman conspire to lead our protagonist into some very sad delusions. The pressure put on her husband leads to another marriage, and a whole bunch of other spiraled twists and turns. This one is another good one!
Overall December, was amazing for reading! Hope yours was too! <3