Friday, March 25, 2016

A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska

What a lovely portrait of a fascinating woman, and an interesting time in early Alaska!  A School teacher in Old Alaska, The Story of Hannah Breece is largely the work of the letters and journals of Hannah Breece, telling of her life during the early years of the twentieth century as a teacher in Alaska Territory.  It is expounded on by her niece, Jane Jacobs, who was given charge of the documents by their writer when she was getting old. What transpires is a readable, interesting account and a lovely book!  Below find my Goodreads review.  Highly recommended.

I enjoyed this book very much. It is a memoir based on the letters written by Hannah Breece during her years teaching native children in different areas of Alaska in the early 20th century. It is edited and a forward and epilogue was written by her niece, Jane Jacobs who adds additional depth to the story. I really loved Hannah-- a woman of her time, who did not criticize unduly but held her ideals and values aloft. Without her, young people would have led different lives during this critical period in Alaska's fledgling history. She made a difference. Herself a middle aged woman she encountered dangers and hardships that many young people would have been hard pressed to survive. She battled bureaucracy and corruption with genteel strength. Educating children was what mattered to her. A fascinating look into her world.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Name Is Lucy Barton

                    "My Name Is Lucy Barton" is a short novel written by Elizabeth Strout.

I ordered it because my daughter, Susan, called me from New York and said "Mom, have you read this book. I thought it was interesting because of the Barton name". (That is our name as well)

                       That peaked my interest so I ordered it, not knowing what to expect.

The story I could have sworn was a biography, the way it was written, but of course, it is not. Lucy tells her story of when she was in the hospital for a very lengthy recovery. Her husband isn't much to visit so he flies Lucy's mother out. The two women have a strained relationship. Lucy has not spoken to her mother in a long time.

The conversations are very real, honest and trying. They pick apart little puzzle pieces from Lucy's past, just to pass the time yet Lucy, at least, is trying to make some sense of them. The Mom has always been very guarded, afraid to express love or caring. Lucy is hoping that she will gain some insight into why things are the way they are and to just hear her Mother tell her she loves her. She wants so much for her Mom to be interested in her life, her marriage which has it's problems, her two daughters, the writing that she is beginning to be known for. She is searching for who she is and who her Mother is.

When I closed the book, I felt that Lucy had moved on but I didn't feel that her troubled past had been resolved so I was disappointed in how it sort of left you hanging. Maybe that was just how I took it. But, I had come to 'be friends' with Lucy and wanted her to find peace.  I am glad I read the book, just wish the resolution to Lucy's longing had been stronger.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Two Novels of WWII

I often read non-fiction, but I have an enormous love for wonderful works of fiction....books that are extremely well-researched and have memorable characters and moving stories.  I also love books that win awards.  Their win gives me a "head's up" that this is going to be a GOOD book!  Then I get lost in its pages, and am swept into another world.  Recently I read two novels, both award-winners, with World War II as their time and place.  Both were recommended.  To see the two reviews done of one of them by our book club members, go HERE (by Marcia) and HERE (by Mom).  The other was a recommend to me by Mom ages ago, and I had taken a long time to get to the book, and then regretted the delay.  I highly recommend them both!  Here are my Goodreads reviews reprinted here on these two awesome books:

Tamar, by Mal Peet (a Carnegie Medal winner)

One of the best novels I've read in quite a while! Beautifully researched and written. Each moment of brief description brings that moment's entire tableau into sharp focus. The characters are interesting and well-faceted, and the story is one that will carry you along on an enormous wave until it all comes crashing to the shore, and then bathes the beach. Wonderful World War II epic!    A young girl named Tamar after her grandfather's code name from his secret mission during the war, is tasked with solving the mystery of that mission and the people who carried it out.  What she discovers shakes the very core of her being, and tests what she feels about the people she loves.              

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (Pulitzer Prize winner)


What a beautiful book! Like a fabric being carefully woven, first the warp and then the weft, then warp then weft, producing a piece of multi-colored silk, studded with tiny diamonds, like the Fire of the Sea, only tiny glittering jewels. The jewels are Doerr's amazing turns of phrase, gorgeous descriptions of so many things...his knowledge of so much in this world is so fascinating. And on the story weaves, two people caught in the horrors of WWII, one in Germany, one in France and yet with their lives coming together so beautifully, so perfectly, and yet.... The light shines through the darkness, and what makes us human is always the fire deep inside our hearts. Everyone should read this beautifully crafted novel.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Turn Here Sweet Corn

I was reading about the book Locally Laid in the newspaper this weekend. It's a new book written by a local Minnesota lady. A reluctant chicken farmer. Eating local is a bona fide movement now. So, I figured reading local should be too. It reminded me that I haven't reviewed another local book yet. Turn Here Sweet Corn 

I loved the title right away. It reminded me of breezy summer drives in the country. I can almost smell the humidity. And taste the homemade, put up jars of beans and preserves. Of course, growing up, we never had to turn any where to buy our corn. We just had to wander out into the field. To this day, it's hard to buy corn, even from the farmer's market, that can match that flavor memory. Even our outdoor barn cats loved sweet corn; during my former life as a reluctant farmer's daughter. I still laugh at the memory of them scarfing down on a cob of corn. 

 The book is more than just a memoir about organic farming. Atina Diffley teaches us about the earth and teases us with a romance of the heart. Plus, she takes on Koch industries! You could almost say it's a thriller too. The book might not be for everyone. But everyone can probably learn something about the life of an organic farmer.