Sarah, Plain and Tall

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

 
Sarah, Plain and Tall
by Patricia Maclachlan
★★★★★

Caleb and Anna are two young children living with their father in the middle of prairie land in the late 1800s. It’s been years since their mother passed away and they see their father Jake’s loneliness every day. He decides to advertise for a wife and receives a reply from a woman is Maine. She describes herself as “plain and tall” and decides to visit them on a trial basis. 

Sarah plain and tall was a beautiful reminder that the story is not dependent upon at length. In just over 50 pages the author pulls you in, you need to motherless children you feel their loneliness and their desperation for someone to complete their family. With very few words we get to know their father and the tenderness that he has just below the surface. Then we meet Sarah and with her strength and her memories of the sea we fall in love with her along with the children and Jake up and we wonder will she stay?

BOTTOM LINE: Just a beautiful story, crafted to give a glimpse into history while delivering an emotion punch.

p.s. Did anyone else watch the 1991 Hallmark movie version of this with Glenn Close and Christopher Walken? I loved those movies!

The Interestings

Monday, November 24, 2014

 
The Interestings
by Meg Wolitzer
★★★★☆
 
A group of six teens meet while attending an artsy summer camp and decide to call themselves The Interestings. There’s the wildly talented graphic artist Ethan, beautiful playwright Ash and her volatile brother Goodman, Jonah the sensitive son of a folk singer and the brash dancer Cathy. Then there’s Jules, the average girl through whose eyes we see much of their lives unfold.
 
The story begins with their meeting in the 1970s and jumps around to present day and everywhere in between for the rest of the book. I'd heard mixed reviews of this one before starting it. I decided I needed a wide berth from both the hype and backlash before reading it. I'm so glad I waited. I listen to the audiobook and it was one of my favorites I've heard in a long time.
 
The fascinating thing about The Interestings is the intimate way at taps into feelings we've all experienced. We see jealousy, frustration, resentment, rejection, heartbreak, etc. played out in the tight knit group. Those moments where we are all the most vulnerable as laid out for the reader to see. We watch the characters develop from enthusiastic and earnest teens into reflective adults, though the scars of their youth are always present just beneath the surface. They each allow some part of their teenage years to define who they are throughout their entire life. They are victims of abuse or the plain one longing for a different life. They are rejected lovers constantly trying to prove their worth or the cocky teen who no real goals. 
 
Each character rang true for me; they were people I could meet in real life. They struggle with the fears we all feel: should I love my children more, should I be self-conscious about my financial status, etc. I've heard many people criticize the books size of meandering style. In this case that worked well for me, because how often do our lives feel that way? Events happen and then are folded into the narrative, becoming part of every one's story in a different way.
 
Truly one of the most interesting characters wasn't one of the Interestings at all. The spouse of one of the original group doesn't join the scene until after their roles are established, but he's able to give the reader unique view into their world. He's on the peripheral of the group, part of it, but never allowed into the inner circle. His perspectives help the reader to better understand the group, both their attraction and their destructive nature. 
 
BOTTOM LINE: I had such a hard time turning off the book each day and for me that's always a strong indicator of how I feel about it. Is the group self-involved, a bit narcissistic in the way they see themselves and their importance? Of course they are, but it's easy to be seduced into their world and I savored every self-absorbed second.

Brown County Bookstores

Friday, November 21, 2014

 
Whenever I travel I tend to find bookstores. A recent trip to Brown County in southern Indiana introduced me to two new ones. The first, Viewpoint Books, was in Columbus, IN. It's a little corner shop with a decent selection. If you find yourself in the area make sure you head all the way to the back to check out the small section of used books! I found a copy of a Steinbeck travel memoir that I hadn't read yet.
 
 
The second shop was in downtown Nashville, IN. The town is an adorably sweet tourist spot with tons of little shops. We wandered and did some Christmas shopping for an afternoon.
 
 
The best thing about The Book Loft was the excellent selection of antique books by Hoosier authors.  I bought a copy of James Whitcomb Riley's poems from the early 1900s for only $10!
 
Let me know if there are any great bookstores near you! I'd love to visit them if I'm ever in your area.
 
Photos by moi.