Tag Archives: Jessamyn West

The Monday Book: THE FRIENDLY PERSUASION by Jessamyn West

You know how you start thinking about an old friend, and then look them up, and find they were thinking of you? This book is like that.

west-persuasionWest wrote it (and its companion volume Except for Me and Thee) more than 75 years ago, but it’s still just as funny and sweet, mostly because it’s about humans. Just humans, and how they interact, living on a farm in the Midwest as Quakers.

Well, there’s that Civil War bit, and their brush with the Underground Railroad, which is somehow more intense now reading it in these troubled years. So much should have changed by now…..

Not much has changed in human courtship, either, and the stories around love affairs (would be or actual) are as hysterical as they are accurate. If you want to just escape into a world that pre-dates Jan Karon but echoes our own modern troubles, this is a good one.

The author was a woman ahead of her time. She wrote two of my all-time favorite quotes about writing: “Talent is helpful in writing but guts are absolutely essential” and “Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.”

That kinda sums up The Friendly Persuasion. One of the reasons people will still be reading it years from now is its poignant accuracy in describing human interactions.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction

Comfort Books

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Fourth of July yesterday. Ours passed comfortably in a swelter of heat, a nice cold plate of veggies and cheese for supper, and gorgeous fireworks with friends on the lawn. (They taught my newly-American husband–a native of Scotland–to say “Oooooh” and “Aaaaaah” at the right times, and presented him with a stars-n-stripes baseball hat.)

We returned to find our neurotic younger dog Bert had chewed his way through the baby gate that keeps him from the bookshop floor, to huddle quivering under the table. Apparently, his firework reactions were less “Oooh! Aaaah” than “Nooooo! Aaaaaagh!”

In righting the destruction Bert had wrought, my mind turned to the rituals and readings we use to comfort ourselves in such situations; had Bert been able to pull his favorite children’s book off the shelf–Wind in the Willows, of course–and read it (as opposed to shred it) he might have been able to forget the noise outside and find his happy place.

I have a few “my troubles can’t get to me here” books to which I return when my heart is uneasy, my brain a hamster wheel of all-go, no-forward-motion. Let me just share five here, and then you tell me yours.

Psalms: as in Old Testament Bible. The letters in the New Testament are also pretty calming, and for those of us who believe the back story, they return the balance of seeing the Big Picture versus the immediate events of the day.

Except for Me and Thee, Jessamyn West. Such a happy story, even when it’s bittersweet. If you’ve not read this tale of a Quaker family and their daily-life silly adventures, it is funny and charming; you can feel your blood pressure dropping as you read.

Bert and I share affinity for Wind in the Willows. My two favorite parts are the visit from Pan when they find the lost otter child, and the return to Mole’s house for Christmas. This sweetness comes wrapped in warm brown fur.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Call me crazy. A friend who works in a prison says she once asked the shrinks there, who visit ax murderers and people who killed women and children, “What do you do to relax?” A lot of them watched that serial-murder TV show “Dexter,” because “as bad as it gets here, it’s not that bad.” I think The Road is like that for many of us. No matter what’s going on, it ain’t that bad.

Anything by Louise Rennison. If you’re unfamiliar with this British writer, she turns out faux diaries of a “typical” English girl’s madcap adventures in love and family. Lines like “7 pm: I shall never think of him again!” and “7:02 pm: I hate him. I shall call and tell him so” intersperse with bad hair days, deciding what to wear to those all-important dances, and other stuff that makes one laugh out loud. Rennison is hysterical.

So, I showed you mine. How about yours?

4 Comments

Filed under book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA