Tag Archives: Janelle Bailey

The Monday Book: BEWILDERMENT by Richard Powers

Janelle Bailey, teacher, AP exam reader, and former shopsitter for our bookstore, delivers the Monday book this week. It turns out not to be a favorite….

I definitely went into this expecting to be engaged and enthralled and breathing deeply, thinking differently about something–in that case never seeing trees quite the same–as had happened when I read The Overstory. That did not quite happen.

Oh, I will look at stars and space differently and think about some other things newly–grief, death, parenting and most especially through grief and death–as well, but I feel like lots of this book were just over my head or out of my own realms of keen interest and understanding, in parts, for me to fully appreciate it quite like I had expected to.

I DO love that the book is set in Madison, and I considered/wondered whether and if so when Powers had spent enough time there to understand these few Madison things: the farmers’ market and its offerings, the layout of some of the city, etc. And I found Theo and Robin and Aly to be interesting and compelling characters for the most part. I enjoyed spending this time with them.

I am not upset that I read it, I am just less confident that I will be totally “wowed” by every Richard Powers I pick up like I surely was by The Overstory.

Also and maybe a sidebar or irrelevant, but: I became more irritated by all of the things that were over my head scientifically when, in the very first pages the book gets completely wrong something that I just shared again recently is a peeve of mine: the misunderstanding of which year of life one enters on their birthday. This main character is turning 9 and so COMPLETING his ninth year of life (we celebrate a first birthday, the big “ONE,” when a child has completed their first year of life. Right??), not “eighth year” as the book states at least two different times. So I was fairly irritated the more that the book wanted me to get my head around science and even its more “sci-fi” aspects, when it kicks off with understanding age wrong. Argh!

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews, Life reflections, publishing, reading

THE MONDAY BOOK: Oh William by Elizabeth Strout

We apologize for the lack of blog posts last week. In a world filling up with words resulting from tragic events, it seemed best not to add to them. We’re back now.

This week’s Monday book comes from the irrepressible Janelle Bailey. She would love to hear comments on this blog, as she is sharing one of her favorites this week.

Oh, Elizabeth! So dependable an author, you are. Few write in such a way that they can be so completely trusted, with each and every book they produce, to transparently share, somehow and so valuably the critical stuff that is inside of a soul. I find that every one of your characters help readers to see clearly another and to gain from better understanding what makes them tick; coinciding, they may see glimpses into themselves and do a little therapy by reflecting. Your “stuff” is always just so believable, your characters dependable narrators and well developed.

In this book the soul unwrapped and revealed most fully is title character William’s ex-wife, who is the writer Lucy Barton. Devoted readers of all books Strout may remember her from My Name is Lucy Barton. In the addressing of her inner soul and guts, Elizabeth, you bring us readers to cringe and struggle and smile and tear up and more, as we go through all of this with Lucy.

Strout’s stream of consciousness storytelling takes us back into Lucy Barton’s past and all the sense she has tried to make–or avoid–of it these many years since her…well, maybe she’s been trying to escape it, really.

This book is also about William, for sure, as it shares things about his life and past, and his mother Catherine Cole’s as well, most especially presenting the relationship she and Lucy had as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law when Lucy and William were married and how that influenced things after their divorce as well.

While it’s not necessary to have read, let alone recently, Strout’s earlier book about Lucy—for sufficient reference is made here to the pertinent elements of her character and past–I do think reading or re-reading that book first would enhance one’s richer experience in reading this one as well as provide the reader opportunity to spend more time with these characters (and also with Strout’s high quality writing). Her books are not long, and I am always a wee bit sad when they end…simply because they are over. I have read every single one of them.

You have to go there to know there: you have to read Strout to see how truly she represents everywoman and the struggle to now simply be, given all one has seen and been and lived and felt. It’s not easy to be any of us…but Strout makes it all…okay. Survivable. Strengthening. While I feel one gains the very most by reading every Strout book to know all of her characters and know them well, a new-to-Strout reader can certainly, instead, pick up just this one (or another) and be quite satisfied by THAT story in a stand-alone experience.

Can’t wait for you to read this one if you have not already. Then let me know what you think!

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, reading