It was back to my mom for this prompt (for full disclosure we skipped the next prompt in line for an audio book and will come back to it at the end). I don’t know how she chose this one, but I am really glad she did.
Book 4: A book written by a person of color: A Mercy by Toni Morrison.
This tragic novel follows four women, each bound in a world where they are nothing when not owned by a man: An African slave girl, tribeless Native American young woman, shipwrecked fire haired orphan girl and a European woman cast on a ship to America to marry a man so he can claim his land.
Set in 1600s America, a time pre Revolution and at the start of slavery in the New World, we learn of each woman’s journey to the farm of John Vaark who himself is held by his dream of a large and ornate house. He is the tie that binds them all and when he dies the women must figure out who they are and how they relate to each other.
Each woman’s story is more tragic than the last and the point that resonated with me the most was how close to reality these stories were. Living in modern day America, with all the freedoms that brings, it is a real eye opener to be placed back in a world where a woman, no matter the color of her skin, was nothing if not tied to a man.
I couldn’t put this book down and stayed up way too late reading before we moved. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
Six moves and seven houses later I have finally landed in a place that feels like “home”. A place that I am not already planning on moving out of during the process of moving into. I feel like I can take a deep breath, spread my soul out and build a life in this house. Who knows how long we will actually stay here, our average is 2 years, but for however long it lasts, I am going to enjoy every second of it.
The actual moving process was uneventful. We picked up the 26 ft U Haul as soon as the place opened at 9:30 am Saturday. Dusty and I then proceeded to load it up as Wyatt ran around playing and making us laugh. We had learned the proper way to pack a truck when we lived in WI. Our friend Brian had worked for a moving company for several years and we quickly learned that our technique was pretty abysmal. Since then, we have packed like pros and it really makes a big difference.
I felt bad because, while I could easily help with carrying out all the heavy wooden furniture and mattresses, the boxes that Dusty had jammed with books and DVDs were just too heavy for me to lift. By the time my parents came over to help around 1:30 pm, we were just down to two remaining mattresses, our 200 lb solid marble dining room table and the annoying garage stuff: tools, sporting goods, lawn mower and mismatched supplies that couldn’t easily be stacked or contained. After that was loaded up, we headed off to the farm house.
One interesting side story here. Dusty and I spent 4 hours moving very heavy things out of the house and into the truck all by ourselves. Several neighbors drove by, stopped to chat and get our phone number. One guy pulled up and asked if he could look around the place as he was hoping to rent it. Right in the middle of us moving! We said sure and walked around with him. Ok…odd but fine. Then around 2 pm our neighbor across the way walks over. We were basically done at this point. He chats with Dusty for a while and then I see Dusty walk off with him.
Next thing I know poor Dusty is helping the guy move his large TV out of his house and into the back of his pick up! The nerve!!! To come over and ask a guy who has been moving heavy stuff all day without offering to help and then ask him to move your TV?! Dusty is way too nice.
We pulled up and I was bursting with excitement. We had been over several times to rake, put up some fencing and clean the gutters, but had only been inside it the very first time we looked at the place. My memory was vague and I was dying to get inside and figure out the place.
Built in shelves
Adorable colored glass light pulls
Once I established which room would be what, I sent my mom and Aunt inside to help organize everything. I’m not good at making decisions on furniture placement, but they are amazing at it. This took a lot of stress off my hands and I could focus on unloading and getting things settled.
It only took a few hours to unload the entire truck and settle the furniture in with all of us working our butts off. Dusty had packed more than I had and he didn’t label any of the boxes, so those just got piled in the car port/garage (not sure what to call it: it is attached and big enough for 2 cars but doesn’t have a door) while my mom and Aunt worked hard at moving furniture around to the best places inside. By 5:30 pm we had everything unloaded and just enough time to make it to my niece’s 4th birthday party tired, dirty and a little smelly.
I slept like the dead Saturday night and woke up bright and early afraid to move. Everything was tight and sore, but there was still a lot to do. We had left some things behind that were too awkward to pack up in the truck and were too tired to get it after the party. Dusty headed out to the old house Sunday morning while I got busy alternating between organizing boxes/unpacking and chasing down a very excited little boy and his dog who have suddenly found themselves with room to roam.
At 12 pm I got a message from our hay guy: he had 50 bales ready and loaded, could he drop them off a week early? Ok…cue panic to get the garage ready. It didn’t take super long though to move all the boxes over, place pallets down and prepare the space. The hay came around 4 pm and then we were starving, tired, cranky and ready to be done. We headed off to O’Charleys for dinner, grabbed two more 60 lb bags of cement from Home Depot for the last remaining fence posts and headed home to fall back asleep at 8 pm.
So much still remains to be done: getting the fish tank over from the old house, cleaning it and emptying the fridge; unpacking all the boxes at the new place; finishing up the horse fence; building a horse shelter; and then moving the horses themselves. It will all get done in good time.
Things are getting interesting and are requiring a little more research.
Book #3: A book about letters.
I will admit. At first I thought “aren’t all books about letters? I mean that’s what they are made of”. And then it dawned on me that “letters” meant correspondence, not the alphabet.
No books came to mind to fit the prompt, so it was back to The Google. A simple search brought up my next pick.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
A one sided conversation commences in the form of letters written from Screwtape, a high ranking devil, to his nephew Woodworm, a new graduate and lowly tempter on Earth.
Woodworm has found his target in a man who has just started to flirt with Christianity. Screwtape’s letters are filled with the various ways to cloud the man’s judgement and bring him closer to Hell.
The book is a satirical look at the world and humanity. C.S. Lewis expertly uses Screwtape to point out the flaws, both petty and serious, that reside in the human race and while it is at once thought provoking, it is also overly weighted down with long sentences and details.
Part of my issue with the book was that I was incredibly sick when I read it. My tolerance for keeping my eyes open lasted about an hour before my heavy eyelids begged to be closed. I believe that even in perfect condition, I would have found the letters tedious to read with the choice of wording provided.
I tend to always finish a book I’ve started, but it was a real challenge to finish this one. A great premise, but tedious in execution. Still, there were some passages that have stuck with me especially one about the human need for change. I no longer have my copy of the book, so I can’t plagiarize here, but to summarize Screwtape waxes on about how humans love change as a way to escape the monotony of their view of the world. However, the change can not be real and unexpected change. Instead we relish in the changes that are expected such as the seasons: each quarter of the year bringing an onslaught of new sensations, climate, plant life and life style. Yet, each year the seasons are the same: Winter begets Spring with Summer close on its heels and ending in another Fall. There are no surprises with each. The same brilliant foliage we stare at this fall will return the next.
In the end though, it wasn’t enough to salvage my opinion of the book as a whole.
My mom and I are doing this challenge together with each of us getting to pick the book for every other prompt. This was her turn.
Book #2: A book that has been on your to read list for too long: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
I’m sure I probably read this in high school. Most people in the US are forced to read this and many others way before they are mature enough to comprehend the content. If I did though, I don’t recall and nothing in the book brought up any memories.
This book is an american classic and I can see why even though in the end I wouldn’t want to add it to my collection or read again.
Of Mice and Men is a heart breaking story about the intangible: dreams, friendship, and power.
The book is set in depression era California as two men try to find work as a ranch hand to earn “a stake”. They are a mismatched pair to be sure: George is slender, small of stature and big of mind while Lennie is a brute with the intelligence and naivete of a small child. They have one common dream that brings them together and draws other characters in and that is to have their own plot of land to farm and live off of with all the freedom it brings.
The most prominent theme is about dreams. How fragile they are. How easy to build, believe in and lose. We find ourselves introduced to George and Lennie after half a life time of being together. The farm has become such an ingrained part of the future, that they both can repeat the same detailed description over and over again. It is real enough to touch and George only really comes alive when he is picturing it
Throughout the novel other characters interact with this dream. Some beg for a piece of it to call their own and others challenge that it isn’t real. In rough times, the talk of the farm brings Lennie and George closer and at peace.
It is particularly powerful then when the book closes with the same images of the farm with the rabbits and chickens and garden vegetables all laid out before George and Lennie’s eyes as everything comes to a close.
When I completed the book, I sat and stared for a while. I was more than just sad…I was downtrodden. A dream so real you can touch it, taste it, smell it. A dream that keeps you moving ever forward through all the muck and more that life throws at you. When George admits to the world that it isn’t ever going to happen. That it was never going to be real. That he has given up. Well, that just wrenches your heart right out.
If you haven’t read it, I don’t know. It’s not my favorite for sure. It is slow to start with overly descriptive passages about the location and scenery. It took me about half way through to figure out what it was even about. The characters are not likable except for perhaps George and Slim, the second in command. It does make you think and it is a short book though. If you’ve got some time, I’d go ahead and pick it up.