More one-sitting books

24 Mar

Sorry I’ve been inexplicably absent from blogging, everyone. Life sometimes manages to throw curveballs…and other times, it belts you with a dozen fastballs you can see coming  a mile away, but still can’t dodge. Guess which baseball metaphor I’ve been dealing with the past few weeks?

I’ve had a few things going on, last week in particular, that I knew were coming, but there was just no way to avoid them or get some of the work done in advance. You know how it is. I had a maddening 2 1/2 days at the beginning of last week, in which I had more to do than time to do it in, but somehow, I managed to get everything done, and done well. Then I flew to Omaha for the NCAA Wrestling Championships to cheer on my cousin, Dan, and watch him take 7th in his weight class and his team take the title for the third year straight. It was a fantastic and fun weekend, but the lack of sleep and the traveling left me with a wicked cold/cough and I’m seriously struggling. I’m at work, but dear lord, how much I would like to NOT be. Thankfully the weather here in DC is actually spring-like and I’m thinking some good, old-fashioned sunshine might be the perfect cure.

All that traveling did give me a chance to take a break from school work, since everything I had to do was strictly on-line, and I took full advantage by reading some fantastic books. I read a couple of books that probably would have What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen: Book Coverbeen One-Sitting books whether I was stuck on a plane or not. The first was a memoir called What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen. Here’s the Publisher’s Weekly synopsis:

In this chronicle of a late-in-life pregnancy, New York City playwright and theater artist Cohen recalls an unlikely chain of events that, at age 44, transformed her life: “Three weeks ago I found out I was pregnant. Two weeks ago, I contemplated and rejected a late-term abortion. One week ago I was put on bed rest. I accepted my role as a miniature hospital, protecting a fragile life by lying on my left side and drinking Gatorade.” Already the mother of an adopted daughter, Cohen’s first experience with pregnancy is a minefield of physical and financial dangers: “A woman with no prenatal care for twenty-six weeks is a lousy insurance risk… To an obstetrician, she represents an expensive malpractice liability.” Cohen questions herself-health, commitment and emotional readiness-and others while sorting through a growing mountain of advice, ultimately wondering whether one can ever be fully prepared to bring a baby into the world. Compelling, humanizing, and deeply honest, Cohen’s narrative will get readers rooting for her growing family.

I was initially torn about how I felt about Cohen. In many ways, it was inconceivable to me that her first reaction to finding out she’s pregnant is that she wants an abortion; but since I grew up past the point where DES is a serious concern for many women whose mothers took the drug, maybe I wasn’t able to understand her desperation and fear for her future child. But as we start to discover the scary and very real health concerns both mother and baby are faced with, I felt a bit more compassion for her. I have to admit that I still closed the book unsure of whether I admired Cohen, or reviled her, but I think it’s just that I didn’t totally understand her. But that’s the entire point of the book: no one understands her, and she’s swimming in a pool by herself without a life preserver to hold onto.

Nonetheless, the memoir is engaging and heartbreaking and I could NOT put it down. I started it as we took off from DC and by the time we were pulling into the gate at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, I was turning the last page. I highly recommend it. But a warning — if you’re more on the pro-life side of the argument, you might find this book infuriating. I could easily see how her desire to seek a late-term abortion would completely color your opinion of Cohen. I still recommend it, but do be prepared.

After that heavy-themed memoir though, I was ready for something a little more light weight for the trip back — plus I was tired and sick from the long weekend, and I didn’t want something that was going to make my brain hurt. I’d packed What I Thought I Knew but then I relied on the dozen or so books on my nook to find my next read. I Dear John by Nicholas Sparks: Download Coverhad quite a variety, and I almost hate to admit it, but I picked Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. I probably won’t see the movie, but growing up as a military brat, in and around military bases all through high school and into college, I’ve dated my share of soldiers. I think the last Nicholas Sparks book I read before this was The Notebook, but this one seemed like something I could relate to. From the Washington Post:

It isn’t hard to picture John Tyree. We can simply imagine his predecessors, men in uniform staring pensively from earlier wartime romances. Apart from the occasional detail—e-mail, cellphone, Outback Steakhouse—Dear John could take place in any modern American era. For Sparks, weighty matters of the day remain set pieces, furniture upon which to hang timeless tales of chaste longing and harsh fate. Only in a novel such as this could we find our political buzzwords—peacekeeping, IEDs, hurricane relief—interspersed with these sentiments: “And when her lips met mine, I knew that I could live to be a hundred and visit every country in the world, but nothing would ever compare to that single moment when I first kissed the girl of my dreams and knew that my love would last forever.”

Sparks recently gave an interview in which he denied that his books were “romance” but instead were love stories. I don’t deny that, and a lot of people have said, “What’s the difference?” I think Lusty Reader would be better suited to answer that question, but classifying his books one way over another doesn’t make them any better written or any less thigh-quivering (I’m sorry — I have no other way to describe it). I think about as much of Sparks’ writing as I do of Dan Brown’s — not very much — but for a quick and easy love story, it still does its job. I’ve never been one of those readers that thinks that books like this aren’t worthy of publication — they all have their place in the bookstore — and sometimes it’s exactly what I’m in the mood for. I hadn’t totally finished this one on the flight back to DC, but after a long day of traveling, I still stayed up until 1:30am finishing the last 150 pages. That’s a win in my book. Just don’t tell anyone ;).


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