Category Archives: reading

The Monday Book: A CHANCE IN THE WORLD by Steve Pemberton

Janelle Bailey comes through once again, folks, as yours truly wrests with an index and a deadline for final edits to the latest book. Look for MASKS MISINFORMATION AND MAKING DO out from Ohio University press next month. Meanwhile, please enjoy Janelle’s review of the non-fiction work A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home by Steve Pemberton.

This is a wonderfully written and TRUE story of hope and love and family as told by one who had to work so much of his life to find those basic needs met in his own life. Steve Klakowicz was orphaned at a very young age and sent into the foster care system to two families–one short-term and then one very long-term–who did not truly “care” for him as they were charged or as he needed.

Thank goodness for others in his life–teachers, neighbors, kind strangers–he never stopped believing in the value of his own life or believed those families’ assertions that his life mattered not at all. Of course I am especially pleased with Mrs. Levin giving him early on the gift of books and the love of reading, of seeing him and believing in him all along, while not even knowing until much, much–years and years–later (after this book was written and published) how significant her impact on Steve Pemberton’s life.

Pemberton’s quest throughout much of the book to put together his own life story, fill in the gaps of his parents and family is heart-wrenching but completely heart-warming at the same time, as he truly had built a life for himself despite what others who should have never did for him. Somehow he gained faith and hope and love and compassion while never having had it modeled well for him. He could have become angry, bitter, distant…and instead became the best father his three children could have ever hoped for. At age 6, his eldest son asks him, “When you were a little boy, did you have a daddy?” And it seems that that might be the start of THIS story, rather than its end, for while Pemberton did not, ever, have a daddy as a young boy, he became a tremendous one. And while none of the men who stepped in when Pemberton needed them to were his “daddy” but moreso “fathers” when he absolutely needed one, Pemberton figured out what a good daddy would do and be…and has been that for his children.

This is just my first read of this book, and I am very excited to be taking the reading of it “on the road” with a community book study, as it is our high school’s “one book, one school” read these next couple of months, and I am excited to bring Pemberton’s story into the hearts and minds of others who will gain from learning about him.

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Filed under book reviews, Life reflections, publishing, reading

The Monday Book: SULA by Toni Morrison

Sula is a tragi-comic book. Toni Morrison comes out with the best lines, told in this even pacing with no drama about the most dramatic subjects.

Age turns men’s lust to kindness about little girls in town. Two of them, Nel and Sula, are the ying to each other’s yang. While the book is named for one of them, it’s really a composite collection of characters: Shadrack, damaged by war and way too wise to be such a loose cannon; Eva, the misunderstood matriarch; Helene, “who won all social battles with presence and a conviction of the legitimacy of her own authority.” And Sula’s mother Hannah, who taught her daughter that “sex was pleasant and frequent, but otherwise unremarkable.”

The town of Medallion is divided into black and white residents, given the book’s timeline primarily between the world wars.

Overhanging the whole book is a miasma of “it doesn’t matter,” a kind of low-grade gloom summed up in the ways the characters expect or don’t expect things to happen. Morrison wrote it best: “They did not believe death was accidental—life might be, but death was deliberate…. The purpose of evil was to survive it and they determined (without ever knowing they had made up their minds to do it) to survive floods, white people, tuberculosis, famine and ignorance.”

The book is rife with sly humor. Sula makes the women in town mad, because, “She came to their church suppers without underwear, bought their steaming platters of food and merely picked at it—relishing nothing, exclaiming over no one’s ribs or cobbler. They believed she was laughing at their God.”

I laughed out loud at this book several times, which was frightening to the person seated next to me on the plane. Enthusiastic recommendation for reading Sula.

In closing, this is my favorite quote about Sula: And like any artist with no art form, she became dangerous.

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Filed under book reviews, out of things to read, reading, small town USA