Reviews

Euphoria // Lily King

Euphoria CoverOnce upon a time, long, long ago, I was a young anthropology major fascinated by the field work of formative anthropologists (even though they didn’t always employ the best methods). I read Coming of Age in Samoa, among many other texts, and thought (briefly) I had found my calling. Ultimately archaeology lured me away, but it made an impression that has lasted a lifetime.

So far, at any rate.

Despite this, and despite rave reviews from so many trusted bookish friends, I had no yet read Euphoria by Lily King. I finally did and it was so very, very good. Brilliant storytelling, beautiful writing, and compelling main characters brought the story to life. Nell Stone, loosely based on Margaret Mead, is a newly famous anthropologist. She is married to Schuyler Fenwick, who is deeply jealous of her success. While traveling to Australia, the meet old acquaintance Andrew Bankson and opt to stay on in New Guinea. This choice, among others that follow, changes the course of all of their lives.

Although Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson served as the inspiration for the love triangle that develops, the outcome, and the story King tells, is very different from reality. The three anthropologists, both in history and in the novel, spend months working together on the Sepik River in what was then known as the Territory of New Guinea. Fen and Nell are working with the Tam, while Andrew works with the geographically close Kiona. The story propels them together, both due to Andrew’s loneliness and his attraction to Nell. It is an intimate novel, both tender and refreshing, and in the end just a little bit heartbreaking.

“Nell and Fen had chased away my thoughts of suicide. But what had they left me with? Fierce desires, a great tide of feeling of which I could make little sense, an ache that seemed to have no name but want. I want. Intransitive. No object. It was the opposite of want to die. But it was scarcely more bearable.”

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read this novel, but I’m glad I finally did. It will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time to come – the story of Nell and Fen and Andrew is deep in my stomach.

Do you ever find a book that you wish you had found so much sooner?

Miscellanea, Personal

Lately

Making: Not beef stew. I hate it, yet keep thinking I’ll like it. It was the soup of the day while I was at work.
Drinking: I made one too many of these the other night (long live gin), I was just so excited to see plums back in the store.
ReadingThe Adulterants, though I think this one will be a miss for me.
Organizing: The weekly grocery list. Lately, I am absolutely fascinated by food budgets, especially after digging in to this series by The Kitchn (Budget Food Diaries).
Coveting: All the clogs. By the time I justify them to myself, their moment of popularity will have passed.
ListeningLola Black – Nothing’s Gonna Be Alright
Watching: Death Comes to Pemberley. I did not know it was a series! Though I remain one of the few people who wishes I was able to watch more television (I average maybe 30-45 minutes a week).
Smelling: Hearth & Home’s Cedar Magnolia Candle.
Wishing: To incorporate healthier recipes into our weekly rotation. Generally we do well, but I may have gotten the news that my cholesterol is a tad high, so less cheese is on the horizon. It’s still well under 200, but I’d rather be conscientious of it so it doesn’t get worse.
Loving: My new job that is only on weekdays. Goodbye weekend work.
Planning: A road trip! We’re doing loop through the southwest this spring (including Arches, ab0ve).
Anticipating: Seeing The Offspring in concert, with tacos.
Needing: To go car shopping. The prospect is horrifying.
Feeling: The urge to spring clean.
Hosting: Book club! We read Betting the Farm on a Drought by Seamus McGraw. There was a very good discussion about what we do individually to help reduce our carbon foot print. My most recent changes include (my family) eating meat free three times a week, stopping using my dryer, and walking to the grocery store during my lunch break (instead of driving to a store after work).
Wanting: To jump back into the community aspect of books. I’ve gotten a small handle on posting more frequently, and I joined a bookish Instagram challenge, but I still feel out of the loop so to speak (because I am…).
Wondering: If Mueller will hurry up.
Celebrating: My daughter started walking. For many reasons, including because it’s adorable, this was a big milestone for her.

Anyone have any amazing tips to food budgeting (or read that series)? We’re trying to offset the fact that my daughter’s daycare raised rates again and potentially replacing our old car.

Photo found here.

Miscellanea

The Beauty Myth // Six Degrees of Separation

The idea behind this exercise is to connect books in any way that’s meaningful to you, from the profound to the inane. Although Kevin Bacon is typically behind the six degrees game, books are just a bit more fun. March’s pick is The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.

My first thought was something along the lines of “Isn’t that the writer who wrote Mrs. Hemingway?” The answer is a decisive no, but it’s close. Naomi Wood wrote Mrs. Hemingway, and I quite enjoyed it, much like A Hundred Summers by Beatrix Williams. They are very different books with similar covers.

A Hundred Summers is the second book I read by Williams, and this is only noteworthy because I didn’t enjoy the first novel of hers I read – Overseas. It’s time travel fiction, which can be tricky, and another one that didn’t entirely work for me (especially because it ended on a cliffhanger and the publisher then killed the series!) is The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway.

Speaking of rivers, Last Night in Twisted River is one of my favorite novels by John Irving. To (loosely) tie this place back to Hemingway, John Irving has mentioned that he was not a fan, not even a little. However, Ketchum is one of the characters in Last Night at Twisted River and Ketchum, Idaho is also Hemingway’s final resting place. I happen to like Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, though my reading heart will always belong to Irving (if one must choose).

Thinking about joining in? You should!

Reviews

Barbed Wire Heart // Tess Sharpe

Barbed Wire HeartHarley McKenna is a daughter, a fighter, a friend, and a victim. She’s shot a man, buried a mother, and plotted revenge, but her most defining characteristic – the one she can’t seem to escape – is being the only child of the Duke McKenna, the most notorious criminal in northern California. Duke – widower, gun runner, and meth dealer extraordinaire – is grooming Harley to take over the family business. And she plans too, but not before she transforms her family’s empire by whatever means necessary.

Barbed Wire Heart is a sharp, feminist novel about the length we’ll go to protect those in need and how hard we hold on to the ties that bind – even when they’re strangling us. Harley is a brutal character raised by a vicious killer, but that’s not what defines her. The novel weaves her past with her present, telling the story of how Harley came to be who she is and contextualizing the extreme measures she uses to defend what’s right.

Tess Sharpe has created an arresting family dynamic in the McKennas, no pun intended, and though I can’t speak to the constant Breaking Bad comparisons the novel has drawn, I will say it’s a compelling story worth your consideration. 4/5.

* A review copy was provided in exchange for my honest opinion (publication date March 6, 2018).

Reviews

The Which Way Tree // Elizabeth Crook

The Which Way TreeBenjamin Shreve is just a little boy when he sees his sister maimed and his stepmother killed by a very large, very vicious panther.

Set in Texas during the Civil War, The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook is a Texas-sized tall tale of revenge and adventure through the wilderness in pursuit of El Demonio de Dos Dedos. It is at times a tad bit far-fetched, but what great story of vengeance isn’t? Aided by an honorable Mexican horse thief, a reverend, and an elderly panther sniffing dog, Benjamin and Samantha set out to hunt the demonic predator. Hindering their progress is one Clarence Hanlin, a confederate soldier guilty of murder.

Judge: How many times did you have contact with him (Clarence Hanlin) after seeing him on the Julian?

Benjamin Shreve: It was ongoing, sir, after what my sister done to his finger. He was tracking us for two full days and a portion of another. On occasion he gave us chase. There was words spoken. There was shots fired.

Judge: I’m uncertain if you’re providing a deficit of information or a surplus, son, but I’m getting no closer to what I want to know. Can you stick close to the point?

Told almost entirely in an epistolary format, specifically Benjamin’s letters-as-testimony to a judge trying to convict Mr. Hanlin of his crimes, this novel is both earnest and deadpan, with a narrator both endearing and frustrating. Truly, The Which Way Tree is a treat, with a subtle hint of True Grit and a subtle-as-a-hammer nod to Moby Dick. This quest for vengeance, interspersed with real, true sibling love*, will charm you.

*meaning constant bickering, as any parent/sibling knows

 

%d bloggers like this: