Re-Reads Worth Re-Reading

I already have posts about Melissa Moore’s Shattered Silence and Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place, both memoirs, but I read both of them again this week and couldn't resist posting about them again, as well. See my previous posts.

I love these two women. Melissa's story makes me appreciate the good, safe life I've lived, and Kelly makes me appreciate everything. Seriously. I'm grateful that I decided to read them both again, now that I'm a little bit older, married, done with school, thinking about starting a family, etc. I was amazed by how different my perspective was on both stories, but especially Kelly's. There's one story in particular that really touched me. It's about the struggle Kelly had as a young girl with friends, popularity (or the lack thereof), peer rejection, and all of those things most of us had to deal with at a young age. The conversation she had with her mother later in life about that experience - I won't repeat it, you'll have to read it yourself! - brought me to tears. The sweet love shared between mother and daughter is beautiful beyond words. 

Both of these books are fantastic and I will probably read them both again at some point. I gave my copy of The Middle Place away to a dear friend when she was facing her own battle with breast cancer a few years ago, so I'm currently without a copy. It may be one of my next book purchases. Please read it. You will love it.

Melissa will forever be one of my heroes. Did you know that the last time I posted about her book, her husband commented on it?! That was pretty amazing for me. To know that not only had I been touched by this book and by Melissa's strength and faith, but that she was able to read what I had to say about it and about her. She's amazing and I will stand by my previous comment: I will hug her when I meet her someday, even if it's in the next life. I hope to someday have as much faith as she does.

I love books about strong women. They inspire me to be a better daughter, sister, wife, and someday, I hope to be as good a mother as these two women. Thank you, Kelly and Melissa, for being the kind of women that I want to emulate. You are inspiring!

On Well-Written Trash

Two of the books I've read recently have opened my eyes to the difference between “trash” and what I will, undoubtedly, refer to as “well-written trash” for the rest of forever. The books in question are JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. It’s only a little ironic that both authors use two initials for the first name – and even more ironic that Salinger’s trash will probably always be more well-known than Rowling’s well-written trash.

What’s the difference, do you ask? The difference is that I read all 512 pages of The Casual Vacancy and couldn't force myself to read more than 5 or 10 pages of The Catcher in the Rye. A friend at work lent me her copy of Rowling’s “adult novel” that came out a while back, but that I had never heard much about since. She told me she had a hard time getting into it, so she never finished, but I figured there had to be something redeeming about it. It was written by the creator of Harry Potter, after all! How could she write anything not worth reading?

I was wrong. The Casual Vacancy is, more than anything, obscene. The language is filthy (this is an understatement) and the characters are dishonest and cruel and devoid of morality. Another reader who I love and respect nailed it when she said, “By the end of the book, I still didn't care about a single character.” It’s true. They’re all a bunch of trashy, shallow, selfish jerks who couldn't keep up with Harry Potter if their lives depended on it. But – here’s the catch – Rowling writes them well! Despite the language and the fact that I found myself skipping over entire passages and even chapters where I knew certain characters would use the “f word” more than any other, I was intrigued. Rowling’s words flow like a stream of poetry and life, and even though the content was horrible, I wanted to keep reading just because she is so incredibly good at telling a story.

As for JD Salinger. I have no idea why The Catcher in the Rye has received any praise whatsoever. I put it on my 2013 list because more than one person recommended it. I love my friends and am grateful that not all readers enjoy reading the same books, but this is one that I really can’t figure out. I picked it up shortly after reading The Casual Obscenity and was, honest-to-goodness, shocked that I preferred the “f word” to Salinger’s drawling conversation/novel. Rowling’s characters are filthy and shallow, but Salinger’s hero is nothing but stupid. I put the book down and asked my Dad about it. If he has a bad opinion of a book, I can guarantee that mine won’t be much different. When I told him I’d started Catcher, he winced and groaned as though he had eaten something nasty. And this is when I decided that there is a difference between trash and well-written trash. Both books might belong in the garbage, but at least Rowling wrote a book that has some semblance of merit.

Don’t waste your time if you’re looking for a good read. These two are not it. But if you don’t mind the swearing and explicit content, you better believe Rowling will TRASH Salinger from word one. Get it?


"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books that I always remembered reading in school as a kid, but could never exactly remember what it was about or if it was good or not. Reading it as a middle school student was a long time ago and if I remember correctly, I did not enjoy it the first time. Over the years, I've heard references to Atticus Finch and Boo Radley numerous times - always with a hint of pride in knowing that these are characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. I finally read it - or, to be more precise, devoured it - as an adult. And found out why Atticus and Boo are notable characters that deserve to be referenced by the adult world over and over.

Isn't it funny how we hate reading these books when we're kids, but find so much joy in them later, when we've finally achieved something resembling maturity? I know I'm becoming a broken record, but I have to say it again. I loved this book. I loved the characters and the story and more than anything, the moral of the story. I love that Atticus Finch talks about racism and prejudice with the greatest scorn and sadness. I love that the Finch's black housekeeper, Culpurnia, is not just a cook/maid/babysitter, but a member of the family. I love that the characters love books. I love that Scout and Jem are Scout and Jem, not Jean Louise and Jeremy. I love that Harper Lee prefaced this edition of the book with the order that To Kill a Mockingbird should never be given an Introduction. I could hug her for that alone!

I'm glad I read this one again. I'm glad that a story told from a child's perspective was able to teach me, a mature, boring, bookish grown-up, a valuable lesson about what it means to be truly charitable. Being childlike is, after all, the surest way to see the good in everyone and to love others for who they truly are.