Half Broke Horses

I love Saturdays when I can lay around and read a book from beginning to end, and that’s just what I got to do today. Hubby is closing tonight, so I picked Jeannette Walls’ Half Broke Horses off my TBR shelf and pretty much didn’t move from my spot on the couch. There was a little Reds baseball in there, and after the game, I moved outside, where the light is now fading. I have about an hour left before he’s home…maybe I’ll open a bottle of something and stay out here. It’s gorgeous tonight.

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My little reading corner

 

Half Broke Horses is a very sweet, semi-biography of Walls’ grandmother. She classifies it as a novel, because while it is based in fact, the stories came mostly secondhand. It is written in first-person, in very short one to two page chapters. This is a very easy, engaging book about a life ranching in the Southwestern US. I kept comparing the life to The Thorn Birds, except cattle instead of sheep. It also has some parallels to The Grapes of Wrath–you will recognize the references to the Okies taking over California.

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I would definitely recommend that you add this to your list of nonfiction/memoir/biographies to read. It is a lovely story about an extremely strong woman fighting for her beliefs and her family in the face of many challenges. Lily Smith was a firecracker for sure.

The Color Purple

Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Where does anyone even begin in discussion about this book?

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It has been banned because of how controversial and heavy the themes are. And I am not surprised. Walker does not skate around any issue here. She covers sexual abuse, she covers domestic violence. She covers slavery and civil rights. She even covers homosexuality.

Really, nothing momentous happens to the people in this story. Celie and Nettie are just ordinary folks living ordinary lives and writing letters to each other while trying to get by. That is what it looks like to an outsider, right? But when you read those letters, and in between the lines, what those women go through is absolutely incredible. Celie had to battle her whole life, and was horrendously scarred against men. Nettie led a beautiful life as a missionary in Africa, but getting there was chance and a push from Celie to go to the “only woman with money.”

The feeling I’m left with is similar to what I felt after reading Grapes of Wrath–a whole lot of gratitude.

Purple is definitely not a light read, though it didn’t take me long to finish. However, It is a very important read. If you haven’t been through it yet, I highly encourage you to put it on your list at some point. Take the time to know these women.

Favorite Character Description

Character descriptions are important in novels, because they form the picture in our minds of what the people in our stories look like, walk like, talk like, how they feel about things, etc etc etc. However, a good character description is such an integral part of the story, that you don’t even realize you’ve read it. The picture forms in your mind, without truly reading the individual words on the page. That’s how everyone knows exactly what Harry’s hair looks like (and why so many of us were confused when he wasn’t NEAR as messy in the movie).

This was another difficult one for me, when I saw the list because of that reason. Holy crap, how am I going to go back and find a character description in a book? I am going to have to dig!

But then, as I was reading The Grapes of Wrath, I came across Tom’s vision of his mother when he meets her in the kitchen for the first time in several years. I can’t say if it’s my favorite, but it definitely is very striking.

“Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.”–John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath

What can I say about John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath? A light read, this is not. This is a very deep, dark look at a farm family from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma, pushed from their home from modernization of big farms.

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As a farmer’s daughter, I gotta tell ya, the first part of this book was very interesting to read. When Steinbeck tears down tractor farmers for not knowing the land, not caring anything about the soil, etc etc etc…I wanted to find a time machine so I could pull him into my little farm town, circa 1995, when my dad, and all my friends’ dads were slaving away long before dawn, and way after dark. They started their education in the fields with their fathers, then went to college to learn about…well, whatever you learn about in Agricultural Science. And then, many of their sons followed in their footsteps and are now taking over those same farms. So don’t tell me that tractor farmers don’t love and appreciate the land.

Ok. Rant over.

(Before I get a ton of comments on that…I understand where Steinbeck was coming from. I am sure that to a Depression-era farmer, those tractor farmers seemed like absolute traitors. It was all about the money–they plowed over everything in their path, then went home.)

The perspective of this book was very educational. I really liked how Steinbeck gave us overall portraits of the time, along with the story. These snapshots gave me a lot of information that I did not have previously about the Depression–I had some basic history lessons from school, of course, but this is not a time period I’ve spent a lot of time reading about.

The story itself gets three stars from me. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was good. I like Steinbeck’s writing, it’s clear and well plotted, but there were some holes here that I can’t quite put my finger on. John’s drinking…not really necessary, or should have been more of a deal. I see the point of Connie mostly, he was the father of Rose of Sharon’s baby…but Noah? What was his point? I would have liked to see him developed more, or at least talked about more later. I feel like after he leaves, the family completely forgets he ever existed.

There is so much about this book I could talk about, it would take pages and pages. I’m sure this has been the topic of many group discussions, and I think it’ll take me several read-throughs before I even start to grasp it. What strikes you the most about this classic American novel?

Currently Reading

Happy May Day! It’s a gorgeous morning, the sky is blue, the trees are flowering…

Goddamn flowering trees. I hate them. My husband and I both have horrible allergies and have been miserable the last few days.

…they sure are pretty!

Today starts the beginning of Tee’s May Book Challenge, which I introduced yesterday. We are kicking it off by discussing what we are currently reading.

People ask me what I’m reading all the time, and that’s always an interesting question. Why? Because I’m never just reading one book. I always have 3-4 books going. Here goes:

1. My Home Book–This is my main book, usually the most challenging of the four, the one I really want to put all of my focus on. Right now, this book is John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. I’m about a third of the way through it, and I’m really enjoying it.

2. My Brain Candy–This book is something I read much faster, usually on breaks at work, and it’s on my phone for in between times when I don’t have anything to do. This kind of book takes me 2-3 hours to finish usually. I just finished Unbearable Lightness yesterday, so I’m not sure what is next for this category.

3. My Audiobook–I have a love/hate relationship with this category. Why? Because the only time I can listen to audiobooks is when I’m a) doing chores b) exercising or c) stuck in bed with a migraine and not able to sleep. Otherwise, I’m not able to focus on the voice. I’d MUCH rather be reading words on a page than having someone else read the book to me. Because of this, I save books that I’ve tried to read myself and struggled with for this format. These are usually books with heavy accents or really long boring books. I read The Red Badge of Courage this way, because I had a really hard time with the way the southern accent was written. I just couldn’t “hear” it. Right now, I’m listening to Anna Karenina. Oh how I hate Russian Literature. It’s SO LONG. I haven’t gone back to it in almost a month now, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m giving up on it again. I’ve made it 17% through and there are 239 chapters to this thing! Good grief.

4. My Poetry Selection–Along side those four, I always have a book of poetry going. Usually in between chapters I’ll read a poem, then alternate. Most of it, I don’t care for, but every once in awhile I’ll find a good one and put it in my journal. Right now, I’m reading The Door by Margaret Atwood.

Whew! That’s it. Obviously, this list never stays the same for long. If you want to see my reading lists (and they are extensive, I’m slightly obsessive about them), check me out on Goodreads. You can click the link at the right, or here.