I gotta be honest – this month, I had to really resist the urge to give in to my basest desires, tune out, and just re-read Fifty Shades of Grey – because my mind was craving something vacuous, among the heat of Ngapali beach and the haze of frozen margaritas. But I didn’t. In part because I knew I would have to write about my reading list here and in part, because I actually did start reading Fifty Shades Freed and it took just 20 pages to remind me that some things are too mind-numbing, even for a vacation.
One of the reasons I craved the fluff so much though, was because both of the books I finished in February dealt with the repercussions of dying. I hadn’t planned it that way, but I should have seen it coming, because if the Handmaid’s Tale had taught me anything, is that things don’t end well for the heroines of Margaret Atwood.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
It always takes me a chapter or two to get used to Atwood’s cadence and her somber writing style. It’s akin to reading a structured stream of consciousness and I am always enveloped by her style, even before I start to understand the plot. That being said, Alias Grace is both suspenseful and morosely boring at the same time. I loved the way the narrative is stitched together like the quilt metaphor that is interwoven through the story. But the book is dampened by the fact that so few of the characters are relatable. Each man is a sexually stunted assaulter of women; each woman is matronly or shallow. There is an almost 500 page build up to the climax of the story of Grace’s murders, but the plot never manages to stitch the threads into something cohesive.
Rating: – ??? three lizzie bordens
The year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” The beginning lines have floated in my mind for weeks. I’ve been in the mood to read a memoir right before my trip and downloaded Didion’s book along with Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov. I started with Didion because it feels like she someone I should have started reading in college. The Year of Magical Thinking is about the year that follows the sudden death of Didion’s husband, while their daughter recovered in the ICU, and the unexpected death of her daughter just a few months later. There’s a delicate contrast between the bitterness of her grief and the lucidity of her writing that is so resonant. Joan Didion offers a window into another part of New York, one that I read about, but not one that I think still exists – dinners at Morton’s, the Palm, months spent at the Beverly Wilshire. Read this book. Read it for the honesty, the openness. Read it because you’ll come out on the other side as a different person.
Also published on Medium.