I have read several of Chiaverini's Elm Creek Quilters series books, and expected this one to be similar. It wasn't. The world of the book is the American Civil War, in a community where loyalties are divided. The production of an opportunity quilt and subsequent publication of patterns is an interesting but minor subplot. For the most part, however, the story is about the lives of brothers, lovers, and husbands at war and in the prison camps, and the communication between women and their soldiers. Once I gave in to the author's idea for the book, rather than mine, I found it every bit as interesting and rewarding as the others.
I listen to audiobooks for entertainment. Oftentimes I find they stay with me, perhaps subtly changing how I view some experience or other, but this one really jolted me at several points. It's not a remarkable plot. Spoiler alert. He goes deaf, then gets back some of his hearing. His father dies. He has an annoying student. Middle age is tedious. His marriage is difficult, and he works on it. What is worthwhile is what the narrator tells us about his experience. There are passages that are absolutely delicious. When I finished the book, I was utterly shocked and thrown into grief.
I thought this might be a fun book to listen to while knitting. After two chapters, though, I gave up and picked out something else. This gem appeared toward the end of the first chapter: "I sat for another moment, memorizing his face in my side mirror, promising myself that never would I or any of my children, should I have any, ever consider procreating with the likes of, or a close relative to, Cole Dunbar." Only stubbornness made me continue for another chapter. It didn't get better.
Janzen's observations on her Mennonite roots initially seem overly harsh, but slowly reveal a love and appreciation for her family as well as their traditions. This is a tender and funny memoir rather than a shaming tell-all.
I've only seen a few 30 Rock episodes and my knowledge of TF's work on SNL is limited to the Sarah Palin sketches that went viral. When I bought Bossypants I was looking for something smart and funny. It worked. There's more SNL/30 Rock backstory than I expected, but Fey puts these events into context and uses them to reveal a pervasive sexism in comedy. My 8 year old son listened to a few minutes and declared, "Do you have more of those busy mom books? I like them. They're pretty funny." That said, it's grown-up humor. If you do let your 8 year old listen to the book, you might have a lot of explaining to do.
My seven year old has listened to this several times and continues to ask for it. It's a welcome change from the usual kid-approved radio shows.
At one point, I forgot this was a Stephen King novel and began to get worried that I would have to skip over some gory parts. There is a bit of supernatural hocus-pocus time travel that the reader must accept with an open mind, and most of the novel deals with the conundrums posed by the possibility of changing the past. Occasionally the voice of the 30-something year old narrator slips into King's 65 year old voice, displaying a degree of familiarity with 1960s era music and cars that seems out of place. As for gore, there were a few gruesome moments that I skipped over with no apparent harm. It's entertaining for the most part (the first part was too slow for my partner's taste), but not something that dazzled me with insight or occupied my thoughts for any time afterward. But not bad.
There is nothing surprising here, and it satisfies nonetheless: a short volume of intelligent and well-crafted essays by well-known knitting writers. Perfect company for long stretches of stocking stitch.
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