April may have gone by in a flash, but I feel as if I’ve been operating in slow motion. I hope this general lack of motivation doesn’t stick around because it’s been affecting all aspects of my life — WODs (workouts) at CrossFit, getting up early in the morning, coming up with ideas for my blog and for Parentables, my desire to go out with friends, and even the number of books I’ve read this month. Last week Jason and I sat down to talk about loosening up our schedule a bit to ensure that we have time to be alone together each week and the empty, unplanned days that I need to charge my internal battery. I’m no longer the social butterfly I was back in university and — shocked gasp! — actually crave those quiet nights in with my PJs on. Anyways, back to this month’s reading list:
1. “The Distant Hours” by Kate Morton
This book is historical fiction with a dark Gothic twist. The whole thing was quite creepy and, since I have a very low creepiness tolerance, there were a few times I was reading alone at night when Jason was at the gym and I had to put the book down until he got home because I was getting too jumpy and tense. It’s set in Britain, jumping between the WW2 era and the present-day, focused on a gloomy castle where lots of strange things have taken place. As entertaining as it was, “The Distant Hours” was not nearly as great as Morton’s better-known novel, “The Forgotten Garden,” which I read last year and loved.
2. “What Happened to Anna K.” by Irina Reyn
I already blogged about my reactions to this book, which I really enjoyed. It’s a modern interpretation of “Anna Karenina.” You can check out the post here.
3. “Half Broke Horses” by Jeannette Walls
This is the prequel to “The Glass Castle,” which I read last month. Walls tells the story of her grandmother Lily’s incredible life growing up on a ranch first in Texas, then in New Mexico, and later running her own huge ranch in Arizona. I was impressed by her fortitude and perseverance. Most impressively, she got a teaching position at age 15 and rode her horse all alone through the desert for 500 miles to take the job. I have trouble imagining a modern 15-year-old doing the grocery shopping, let alone tackling a trip like that. Another story that touched me deeply was Lily’s younger sister’s suicide after getting pregnant, abandoned by the baby’s father, and shunned by the town and priest. It was sickening to read of the judgmental way in which she was treated. Despite that, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgia for an era of greater self-sufficiency and inventiveness. Life is so easy now by comparison, and I can’t help but wonder if it causes us to take it for granted.
4. “419” by Will Ferguson
This novel won the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize, but I was drawn to it after hearing about my aunt and uncle’s recent trip to Nigeria. 419 is the section of the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud and obtaining money in illegal ways. Uncle Harold told me it’s the kind of book you should never read before going to Nigeria, and he’s right. Now that I’ve read it, I’m terrified to go there! It was a deeply unsettling book, mostly because of the desperate lengths to which someone will go to get ahead, even if it destroys other people along the way. It was disturbing also because it touches so close to home. A Canadian man dies as a result of a 419 scam which grew out of one of those emails we’ve all seen in our inboxes at some point: “So-and-so in Africa needs your help!” etc.
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? I’m particularly interested to hear people’s reactions to “419,” since I can’t stop thinking about that one.
You know, a lightbulb just went off in my head. Maybe my lethargy is affected by the fact that all the books I read this month are truly depressing, mostly about hardship and gloom and injustice. Perhaps May’s focus will be on happy books, books to inspire and books to entertain. Yes, that’s a good idea.