Book Review: Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Book Review: Men We Reaped by Jesmyn WardMEN WE REAPED
by Jesmyn Ward

Nonfiction; Memoir
Bloomsbury; Sept. 17, 2013
Hardcover; 256 pages
Source: Purchased

In four years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men she cared deeply about. On the surface, these men, including her brother, died from drug overdose, homicide, suicide, and car crashes. However, in her struggle to make sense of these deaths, Ward sees a deeper cause. These men died because they were male and Southern and Black*. In her memoir, Ward tells the story of her family, memorializes the men she lost, and seeks insight into their deaths.

Men We Reaped is a devastating, gut-wrenching book. Anyone who has read Ward’s National Book Award-winning novel Salvage the Bones knows how elementally powerful her writing is, and Men We Reaped is possibly even stronger. It howls with grief as she tries to deal with the losses she has suffered and her constant fear of more bad news as the men she loves die, one by one. Continue reading

Jazz Age January 2014: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast is the first Hemingway book I’ve read since my high school English class reading of A Farewell to Arms, and although I enjoyed it, I’m not sure it was the best place to start reading his work.

Unfinished and published posthumously, A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s memoir of his time spent in Paris with his fist wife Hadley in the early 1920s. Also included in this “restored edition” are many Paris sketches that I think weren’t meant to be in the book but that provide interesting insights into the author’s life.

On the one hand, I found reading about vibrant jazz age Paris and its players to be fascinating. Hemingway belonged to a community of truly luminous artistic figures including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, and Ford Maddox Ford. It was really interesting to read about Hemingway’s relationships with them — especially since many of them are characterized rather irreverently!

On the downside, this book was kind of hard to follow. I don’t know if it’s because it was unfinished or because it’s Hemingway’s writing style to jump around and make references to things he hasn’t explained, or something else. If I recall correctly, the book’s introduction (or was it the foreward?) mentions that Hemingway’s alcoholism had a horrible effect on his memory. He probably didn’t remember his time in Paris all that well, and his alcoholism may have also impacted his writing ability.

My understanding of this book was really helped by my earlier reading of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This historical novel covers a very similar time-span to A Moveable Feast, and it was interesting to see how the stories paralleled each other. On a few occasions that Hemingway would mention something out of the blue, like coming back from Toronto after Bumby’s birth without ever having mentioned that they went to Toronto in the first place, I would have been confused if I hadn’t read McLain’s novel. It helped clarify the facts where Hemingway is vague.

On the whole, I enjoyed A Moveable Feast and thought it was a good way to start my Jazz Age January reading! Although I don’t think this was a good entry point into Hemingway’s writing, I’m glad I read it. What should I read next to become better acquainted with his work?


Book Review: Mountainfit by Meera Lee Sethi

Book Review: Burial Rights by Hannah KentMOUNTAINFIT
by Meera Lee Sethi

CCLaP Publishing; Apr 2012
E-book; 57 pages
Source: Received from publisher for review

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives other souls,” Sethi quotes Anais Nin at the very beginning of this book, adding, “What you are reading was supposed to be a book about birds, but it is about this, too.”

In 2011, Meera Lee Sethi finds herself volunteering at a small bird observatory in western Sweden. Although at first she feels like an awkward city slicker, she grows to love the daily routines, trekking through the mountains to visit bird mating grounds called leks, tracking birds tagged with geolocators, observing nests, and recording data. Continue reading

Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls THE GLASS CASTLE
by Jeannette Walls

Non-fiction: Memoir
Scribner, 2005
Paperback, 288 pages
Source: Purchased

Jeannette Walls had a childhood much different from most people’s. The daughter of a deadbeat dad and a free-spirited mother, she spent her early years bouncing around the US, “doing the skedaddle” whenever the rent money came up short. Although life seemed like a great adventure — her father, Rex, was a charismatic man capable of capturing his children’s imaginations and instilling them with a love of life — the Wallses faced devastating hardships. Rex couldn’t hold a job and spent every cent on liquor, and Mary, Jeannette’s mother, despised her domestic and motherly responsibilities.

The Glass Castle is Jeannette’s attempt to capture her childhood in all of its unique glory, chaos, and difficulty. Although she and her brother and sister were constantly hungry and often neglected, her family was one full of love. Continue reading

Audiobook Mini Reviews: Memoirs

Last week I posted a few mini reviews of audiobooks I’ve listened to in the last few months/year. Today I’m back with Round 2! This post rounds out all of the audiobooks I’ve listened to (or can remember listening to) with the exception of The Hunger Games trilogy, which I think will get its own post. Anyway, it turns out that I really like listening to memoirs by funny ladies, because that’s what three of these four books are. Without further ado, I present Audiobook Mini Reviews: Memoir Edition. Continue reading