Saturday, March 5, 2011

March - Book Review


I read March right along with Little Women...and then as I fnished Little Men.
While the father of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy is more in the background of Little Women, his experiences take the forefront in March.  

This was my first Geraldine Brooks historical novel and I am hooked...her style of writing and attention to historical detail had me from the very beginning.
Brooks spent a lot of time researching Bronson Alcott's journals and the journals of men who served during the Civil War.  Even though Alcott himself never served in the Civil War, Brooks transported a man of March's ideals into war and comes out with a believable look at how even the most idealistic man could be changed and/or confused by the realities of the world.

We meet March as a young peddler who yearns for books and education and sees the world through rose colored glasses.
He meets hot-headed Marmee through his friendships with Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne, falls in love with her and marries her.  He is attracted to her independence and free thinking, yet he immediately begins to try and calm her. 
:/
1st strike


Through March's own words we learn of March and Marmee's early lives and their comfortable home and nestegg they built...and then, through foolish investments, namely one particular donation to John Brown and his Harper's Ferry business, March loses his fortune.
Marmee quietly begins the hard work of her life, the one which we are most familiar through the classic, Little Women.  She and her daughters run their household, take jobs outside the home and bring in any meager income they can...while their father is out saving the rest of the world
:/
2nd strike

 
As more and more young men are called to war, March preaches non-violence but ends up getting caught up in the excitement of patriotism and volunteers to leave his family to stand beside the men on the front lines as a pastor.
Marmee is incredulous...but remains silent.
Marmee also remains silent while March sends letters home that sugar coat his experiences.  The horrors he witnesses and the memories he revisits are too unbelievable to share with her and he is changed forever.  Such is war.  He begins to doubt what he has always stood for and the purpose of life...and he begins to whine incessantly. 
3rd strike...he's out!

By the time March finds himself sick with fever and Marmee has to leave Concord to come to his bedside in Washington, she ends her silence and becomes the narrator.  She expresses her frustration and disappointment in this man, the head of her household, who has let her down in many ways, some of which catch her completely off guard.  I was soooo glad to hear Marmee's voice by this time.  I was more than a little weary of March's whining. 
I feel like I should apologize for calling March a whiner.
But I'm not going to.

Marmee was affected by the things she learned about her husband that were usually considered "protected information"...most women would never be privee to their husbands past relationships nor would a wife ever confront "the other woman."
Most women would simply "pretend" they had no knowledge of such things.
Not Marmee.
There are obviously things about March and Marmee's relationship that were never portrayed in Louisa May Alcott's novels, particularly the passion they feel for one another early in their relationship.  In Little Women Jo's temper is the one that causes conflict; after reading March I realized that "the apple didn't fall far from the tree."  I liked that though...
Takes one hothead to recognize another ;)   

Brooks' novel is an important one...the romantization of war vs the reality is a message that should be repeated nonstop.  Brooks' descriptions of the almost prehistoric war hospitals, surgeries and treatment of injured soldiers will make you wince.  I don't think you have to be an Alcott fan to appreciate March.  There is more than enough information about the characters for you to get to know them even if you've never heard of Little Women.  (By the way, who are you and what planet did you just arrive from ;)  However, I am an Alcott fan and I was surprised at how much my perspective changed...I now realize how much Louisa May Alcott did NOT talk or write about her father...and I wonder if some of the personality issues that plagued me also were an issue for her.  I've got a couple of biographies that I'm going to delve into next to get even more background information. 

If you are a fan of books about the Civil War or Louisa May Alcott, this is a must read.


Friday, March 4, 2011

22 Things I Love about My Husband - Happy Anniversary, Ed!



22 years ago I married the most patient and supportive man on the face of the Earth.   
We don't normally spend a lot of money on each other as gifts, etc...I'm not a jewelry person nor do I want flowers, etc. We just don't need a lot of "stuff," and if either of us needs something, we just go get it. 
He is not a regular reader of my blog...I don't think so anyway...but I decided that for our anniversary this year as my gift to him, I would write about him :)
I honestly do not know how my life would have turned out had I not met this man when I did.  While I have always loved him, I am amazed at how much stronger that love becomes each and every year we're together.
We don't have a perfect life by any stretch of the imagination, but it's ours...

22 Things I Love about My Husband

1.  He has a nice chest - We are married, you know...and we have three children so I'm assuming most people would be aware that I've seen his chest, ahem.

2.  He smells good - When he's not home, if I miss him, I just walk into his closet or lay down on his side of the bed...it's not a cologne smell...it's just him.  When we were dating, we lived in two different cities so I used to steal his shirts so I could smell that smell through the week.

3.  He reads - I'm sure I could be happily married to someone who didn't read...but I don't have to wonder.  He likes to sit quietly on our bed and read...the last year or so he has started wearing reading glasses so he looks very distinguished while he reads ;)

4.  He loves me - a friend guessed just yesterday that when I was in high school I was "hell on wheels."  The truth is I really wasn't...but I could and can be difficult and I know it.  He just shakes his head and loves me anyway.

5.  He loves our children - now, I know all fathers are supposed to love their children...but my husband grew up in a house of boys...and then we had 3 daughters.  It is difficult at best to love a wife, two teenage daughters, and a sassy 7 year old daughter day after day after day.  But, he does.

6.  He quietly notices important things - One year he planted gardenias for me at our new house; gardenias are my favorite flower...I even had them in my wedding bouquet.  When we moved from that house, the lady who moved in behind us pulled the gardenias up.  I had to drive by every single day on my way to work and look at that horrible flower bed.  Those were my flowers, they were beautiful and he had given them to me.  It was honestly almost more than I could bear.  After our new house was built, he was working in the yard one day and I noticed him planting something in the front.  Guess what it was?  Just for me.  He never said a word...he just knew I needed my gardenias back.

7.  He is honest - he won't tell anyone something just because he thinks it what they want to hear...if you ask him, he's gonna tell you his opinion.  I'm the same way, so this works well for us :)

8.  He is dependable - If he tells you he'll take care of it, he will. 

9.  He makes me feel safe - It's not a "he'll can beat people up if they try to hurt us" kind of safety; it's deeper than that.  He's smart and prepares for things. 
 
10.  He makes me feel beautiful - When we were dating, he would tell me all the time how beautiful I was...he doesn't "tell" me as much as he used to, but more meaningfully he shows me in quiet ways that he is proud that I am his wife. 

11.  He stands back and lets me do my thing - I've heard a lot of academic folks talk about the struggles that occurred in their marriages when one or the other partner was working on his/her Ph.D.  We simply didn't have that.  He is confident enough in his own skin that he is genuinely proud of any success that comes my way and is willing to more than pull his weight and mine if it's necessary for me to be what I want to be.

12.  He doesn't expect everything to be perfect - Thank goodness...because there's always laundry to be done, dishes in the sink, and supper not on the table "on time."

13.  He doesn't need shiny sparkly things - This works both ways for us as well...we'd rather have things for our house, a pallet of grass, a vacation with our kids.

14.  He loves family - This also is an understatement.  Family is everything.  It's how he grew up and it's how he feels about our little family now.  Our extended families are still an incredibly important part of our lives as well.  He honors and takes care of his own.

15.  He doesn't always understand me, but he tries really hard - I have to bless his heart on this one...because it's probably an understatement.  Once I asked him if I looked fat.  He said, "Uh-uh, I'm not answering that...there is no right answer to that question and I'm not even going to go there." 
Smart move.

16.  He's a good guy - There are some guys in this world who would take advantage of a gal at every possible moment.  Mine was a good guy when we were dating, has been a good guy while we've been married and continues to be a good guy.  Not just to me either...to everybody...he's just solid...I think his mama taught him that...but don't tell her I said that ;)

17.  He likes to be outside - He gets this from his mom also.  He likes to work with his hands...putting plants in, mowing, building me a little brick patio, sitting outside, etc. 

18.  He likes to do his own thing - I think this works for us both too.  Everybody needs their own space. Period.  Everybody needs things they do that just belong to them. Period.  It makes that person a better partner when he/she is a strong individual person.  I think we do this for each other.

19.  He's a music lover - Our house is full of music, guitar, rock bands, flute, piano, singing...all of us girls tend to slow down and quiet down a little when he starts playing his guitar...just so we can listen.

20.  He thought it was fun to have a squirrel running around in our house...and even took videos :) - Yes, we had a squirrel in our house. 

21.  He puts up with my cats who periodically walk around on his head early in the mornings - When I say "puts up with" I mean he doesn't kill them. :)

22.  He fusses...and then he moves on - Sometimes he's just had enough...and he'll say so.  He fusses a good bit about our rescue dog.  He calls her the Hellen Keller dog :/  She sometimes has trouble at night holding her bladder, and for some reason chooses his "man cave" as her potty spot.  Of all places.
Anyway, he'll say, "That's it!! She's got to go!! Don't let her in the house anymore!!!"
And, then he'll just go on...and forget it...till the next time.

Is it any wonder that I love this man??
I am blessed!
Happy Anniversary, Ed...I love you :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Reagan!!

She's a Mama's girl
and my biggest fan

a tender heart and a sensitive soul



 
She's grown up with two teenage sisters and can carry on a conversation way above her age...sometimes to my chagrin :/
She's also pretty good at giving those teenage sisters a run for their money...she can sas with the best of them



She loves ICarly, Big Time Rush, Victoria Justice and Justin Bieber...as well as Spongebob Squarepants

She is frightened easily and needs desperately to know that whoever is in charge of her is really in charge and is going to protect her from robbers. (No, we have never been robbed)



 
She likes to do things for herself...and to do those things PERFECTLY




Her shoestrings must be exactly the same length and tied exactly the same way...and heaven forbid, don't forget to make them lay flat after triple knots are tied...
Sock seams must also line up perfectly across her toes...or else.


She likes to cook with me, and our Spring/Summer garden is just as much hers as it is mine...I honestly don't know which one of us gets the most pleasure from it ;)


She likes lizards (very small ones) and frogs...but is horrified of snakes and salamanders (salamanders look like snakes)


She is a shopaholic, more than even her sisters ever dreamed of being...she can go to the Gymboree website, choose her selections and sizes and load a cart...no, she does not have access to our debit cards :p



 
She's a card shark...UNO is her current favorite...along with Old Maid and Go Fish...The Head of My Household mostly plays cards with her, but she can sometimes rope the teenagers in as well.

She also may be the most creative of the bunch...she has free reign of scissors, paper, glue, crayons, markers, computer/printer, paint, etc. and has never once used any of these items in inappropriate ways (she cut her hair once...but her bangs did need trimming ;)


She can put together some of the wildest outfits you've ever seen and LOVES boots in Winter and flip-flops in Summer.

She is my baby...and I cannot imagine life without her.

Happy Birthday, Reagan!





Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Men - Book Review



Little Men focuses on Jo and Professor's Baehr's adult life with small children and a boarding school  filled with young boys (and Nan and Daisey).  In actuality the focus of the sequel to Little Women is more on the children raised by Jo and Fritz than Jo and Fritz (or any of the other family members for that matter).  Aunt March left Plumfield to Jo, so Jo and Fritz open Plumfield as a boarding school for children whose families cannot afford to send them to the more expensive schools.  The students are chosen carefully and many times come with emotional needs as well as educational. 

All of the children have their own character/pesonality and more times than not a character flaw.  These flaws are usually brought to the surface and mended by Jo and Fritz with the help of the other children. The children's antics are described in detail...fighting the squirrels to harvest nuts for the winter, gardening in their own little plots, their daily routines and chores and the evolution of their thriving personalities nurtured by a loving environment.
Not only are the children provided with everything they need, but they are also expected to pull their own weight, taking responsibility for the family, making it in a sense a true family, something many of the children have never known.

Jo and Fritz have two children of their own, Rob and little Teddy; Demi and Daisey are Meg and John Brooke's twins and Laurie and Amy have one little girl, "The Princess," who only visits Plumfield from time to time.  Laurie is a major benefactor of the school and is still in awe of his "sister" Jo.

While Little Men follows Little Women naturally and is written with the same Louisa May Alcott style of writing, language etc. I didn't feel as if I was as absorbed by this story as I was with Little Women.  While I enjoyed seeing into the lives of the children, I longed for more of an in depth look into the adult lives of Fritz and Jo, Laurie and Amy, and Meg and John Brooke.  There are a few places in the novel where LMA gives a "peek" at best...for example, the children witness Jo and Fritz's warm and tender hugs, conversations with one another on a regular basis; but while Laurie visits with his and Amy's little girl a couple of times during the novel, Amy is practically left out of this story altogether? 

Meg and John Brooke's children have more of a direct role in Little Men...with Demi moving into the school first and Daisey following somewhat later.  I was a little taken aback by Meg and John Brooke letting their young children leave their home and live with their aunt at school...but then I remembered that I was looking at this particular part of the novel through my contemporary eyes and from my own personal mother's perspective.   I'm no colonial American literature scholar so I don't know if this was a common practice of the time?

I did sometimes feel that Little Men was a little sugary sweet at times...Jo especially seemed a little "too good to be true" at first...until little Teddy gets lost in the woods.  All sense of rational thought leaves her then and the old Jo, fueled by emotion and reaction, takes over for a brief but welcome time.

The novel reads more like a journal or set of short stories about life at Plumfield than one sweeping connected story, some segments I definitely liked better than others. 

Jo's Boys is up next...and is already uploaded to my Kindle :)







Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Salon - Lemuria Bookstore



Lemuria Boostore in Jackson, MS has been around since the 70's.  As Jackson is the capital of MS I have traveled in and around there for most of my life...but somehow never once visited Lemuria...until yesterday.




The store is a maze of rooms...with books on shelves, standing up, laying down on the floor etc.  There are comfy places to sit and browse and knowlegable staff all over the store.  They don't bother you, but if you need something or once you're checking out, there is actually a human being there who has read something you have in your hands! Imagine that!!

The children's section is called Oz :)
My youngest stayed in that particular room the entire time...mesmerized by the books...the way the books are displayed invites the reader to touch and look...My youngest sat right on the floor and read books while my mother and I browsed. 

Lemuria also has a blog which I have followed for a short while...even though I had never been there.  They have successfully created a community of readers with staff postings about new books, author signings, classic stories, the First Editions club, etc.  What I particularly like about the Lemuria blog is that the staff postings are not sales pitches.  They are true blog postings...book related, of course, but again, honest, down to earth discussions about books and what's going on in the book world instead of trying to talk you into making a purchase.
There is also a book club that meets on the first Thursday night of every month.  I'm 1 1/2 hrs. from Jackson so that's probably not a realistic goal for me, but I'm not going to completely write it off just yet :)

Even yesterday while I visited the store, I never felt pressured to buy anything...
No, I didn't need anymore books.
Yes, I bought some.
How could I not?? 

These friends needed to come home with me ;)



Now I'm faced with the dilemma of which one to read first!
But, oh what a wonderful dilemma it is :):)

Lemuria is a place that invites you to spend the afternoon...a comfortable environment filled with intelligent human beings who love books and books, books, and more books...I can't wait to go back!!