I’m slowly but surely whittling down my backlog of reviews to write. A few more sets of mini reviews and I’ll be caught up. Woo hoo!
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010
Where I Got It: Bought it for my Kindle
My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Description: Golden Richards has four wives, 28 children and a struggling construction business. If his life isn’t already complicated enough, he is contemplating starting an affair. Trish, one of Golden’s newest wives and unable to conceive any children with him, begins to wonder if polygamy is the right choice for her and her daughter from a previous marriage. Rusty, one of the middle children in a family where almost everyone is a middle child, struggles to stand out in a family where it is easy to get lost. The voices of Golden, Trish and Rusty weave together throughout this book to provide a multi-faceted view of a polygamist lifestyle from the view of the husband, a wife and one of the children.
My Thoughts: This book has the magic combination of elements that I look for in a novel: a sense of humor (often leaning toward the dark side) mixed with tragedy and heartbreak and the ability to illuminate a type of lifestyle that is unfamiliar to me. Although the title of the book sounds like an oxymoron, Brady Udall effectively conveys how the life of a polygamist could be incredibly isolating and lonely. The loneliness that drives Golden to have an affair felt completely believable to me, and I found myself rooting for him! But Udall makes a genius decision to bring in the voices of Trish and Rusty to counterbalance Golden’s perspective. I felt for all of them and was so involved in their lives that, even though the book is 624 pages long, I wasn’t ready to leave at the end. Although many parts of the novel are very funny (particularly one scene with some lost gum), Udall gives his characters real pain and problems too, which keeps them grounded in the real world. This was a wondrous read, and I would highly recommend it. If you are concerned with how it portrays a polygamist lifestyle, I’d have to say that I thought Udall’s depiction felt realistic, complicated, and multi-layered (as I imagine it might be).
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
Publisher: Penguin, 2006
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Where I Got It: Bought it
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Brief Description: Ruth Reichl became the restaurant critic for the New York Times in 1993, and this book is an account of her tenure there. Combining her personal account of the job (including the elaborate disguises she created to avoid detection), reprints of some of her reviews, and several of her own recipes for the various dishes and foods discussed in the book, this memoir is a must-have for foodies as well as an interesting read for non-foodies (like myself).
My Thoughts: The only reason I picked up this book was because I needed a “book with a gem in the title” for the What’s In A Name Challenge. As a non-foodie (I confess that I skip almost all cooking and food-related blogging posts), I wasn’t sure if this book was going to resonate with me. However, the chance to learn about the life of a restaurant critic helped me overcome any doubts. I’m glad I gave it a shot because it was an interesting and relatively painless read (yes … I skimmed the recipe parts). It was fun to hear about how she came up with her various disguises to eat undetected in some of New York’s finest restaurants, and how her “radical” approach to restaurant reviews often caused controversy. I thought she was down-to-earth and egalitarian in expecting restaurants to earn their stars by treating celebrities and “unknowns” the same, and it was a kick to hear about her two very different experiences at Le Cirque (once eating as herself and once eating disguised as an old woman). I loved that she wrote about her experiences and then shared the resulting reviews that she wrote; it made the book to come alive and helped me to understand her as a critic. And darn … she even made a non-foodie like me want to try some of these dishes! I think the appeal of this book extends beyond the foodie crowd, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a memoir with a different spin.
The Wordy Shipmates written and narrated by Sarah Vowell and others
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio, 2008
Length: 7 hours and 15 minutes
Where I Got It: Downloaded it from Audible
My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Description: Sarah Vowell uses her irreverence and considerable intelligence to explore the world and influence of “the Wordy Shipmates” (aka the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony), some of the wordiest and most influential settlers of the United States. With a particular emphasis on Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop (who coined the famous and oft-used “city upon a hill” metaphor), Rhode Island’s founder Roger Williams (whose personality confounded me over and over again) and Anne Hutchinson (a woman just couldn’t keep her mouth shut when she should have), Vowell explores the influence and legacy of the Puritans on the United States.
My Thoughts: Although I realize that I want my history given to me by the likes of Sarah Vowell (irreverent and not afraid to go off to follow interesting tangents), I did not enjoy this book as much as I did Assassination Vacation. It just figures that the Puritans could put a damper on even Vowell’s snarky smart-assedness. I can’t quite figure out if it was the subject matter or Vowell just wasn’t in the groove for this one, but I felt like I was listening to it forever. Part of it was that Vowell played it more straight than usual and there were fewer pop culture references and personal stories to liven things up. Still, I managed to learn a lot and gain a better understanding of U.S. history. I guess I was just expecting more laughs. Harumph.
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