Author: Tara Westover
Review by: Judy Bobrow
Every once in a while, a true story surfaces about how someone overcomes the desperate obstacles brought about by child abuse and neglect to become a person of integrity and substance. The evidence of their survival flies in the face of everything we know about the impact of early life experience on who we become. One question is, “what is it that allows a person to rise above a terrible childhood? Is it something innate – some chemistry – like cream rising to the top? The second question is, “how do they do it?” In Tara Westover’s “Educated,” the “what is it?” remains a mystery. But the “how do they do it?” is laid out step-by-step through 323 pages of a gripping, often disturbing memoir.
Westover is one of seven children growing up in the mountains of Idaho. Her parents are survivalist who believe that the medical and educational establishments are not to be trusted. Only three of her siblings have birth certificates. Accidents and illnesses are treated at home by Westover’s mother, who is a midwife and herbalist. She also is responsible for the children’s formal education, which includes only rudimentary reading, writing and arithmetic. Historical events are never addressed so do not exist in the lives of the children.
“I had been educated in the rhythms of the mountains,” says Westover in the prologue to her book, “rhythms in which change was never fundamental, only cyclical. The same sun appeared each morning, swept over the valley and dropped behind the peak. The snows that fell in winter always melted in the spring. Our lives were a cycle - the cycle of the day, the cycle of the seasons - circles of perpetual change that, when complete, meant nothing had changed at all. I believed my family was a part of this immortal pattern, that we were in some sense, eternal. But eternity belonged only to the mountain.”
In equally beautiful prose, Westover takes us through her childhood: her desperate struggle to survive, to learn about the world outside of the mountain, to think for herself, and ultimately to balance love of family and comfort in the life she creates for herself. Sometimes painfully and sometimes exhilarating, Westover shows us how it is possible to become “Educated” despite all odds. JB
My third novel, The Giving House, is now available. Getting to this point is somewhat like watching your grown child move out on their own. I've put in the blood, sweat, and tears and now it's time to let the novel be independent. It's not easy to let go because my characters are not fiction to me, they have sprouted to life from the page.
Harriet is a strong woman with a unique voice and I've enjoyed getting to know her. She finds herself and her voice through tragedy (as many of us do). What she does from there is inspirational, yet she still struggles with her choices, even on her deathbed.
You can enter the Goodreads giveaway or purchase your copy today on Amazon.
A little more about the book...
Harriet Jareck is dying. Cancer snakes through her brain, eradicating her short-term memory and her ability to recognize faces. It’s not looming death that scares her—she’s had a long life on the farm she loves. What she fears most is dying before she’s been forgiven for her worst sin. She’s dedicated her life to repenting for that sin, but she worries that it’s not enough. She feels called to tell the whole story—every disturbing detail—to seek forgiveness, not knowing who listens or whether she has enough time left in her to finish.
Author: Dorothy Reese, Linda Grischy and Cheryl Rogers
First Published: October 29, 2013
Fun and entertaining, this little cookbook offers over 60 recipes. You'll find ways for using your leftover turkey as appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, casseroles and dinners. Learn tips on how to prepare, cook and store your leftover turkey. But wait! There's so much more! For example, what do they do with all those feathers??? Yes, the anecdotes alone will entertain the entire family! A perfect gift for a Thanksgiving hostess or for your own library---
For more about the author, click here!
By: Judy Bobrow
My mother often quoted a philosophy she called the Law of Compensation. It was her way of rationalizing what we saw as the negatives in life by turning them into positives - and sometimes it drove me crazy. But I’m trying to employ that philosophy today, as I recover from recent back surgery. Suddenly, I am transformed from a busy, physically active person, into someone who needs to walk slowly and constantly monitor every movement. My new normal is: Don’t Bend! Don’t Lift! Don’t Reach! Walk Carefully! So, I’m looking for the positives, and here’s what’s been revealed.
Slowing down can be good! Imagine that!! The whole process has made me appreciate time in a new way. Instead of keeping one eye on the clock to make sure I get to the next activity on time, I am reading whole books in one sitting and writing with a much clearer mind. Most important I have time to think about the things that require the luxury of time for pondering and appreciating the small things – like watching the birds at my feeders and the slow rising of the sun in the early morning when I can’t sleep.
I certainly don’t want to go through surgery again any time soon – back or otherwise – but there is an important lesson for me in my mother’s Law of Compensation. It is possible to turn negatives into positives if I just allow myself the time. And perhaps the biggest positive is that lengthening my time now is good training for the future, older me.
Thanks Mom! JB
These three novellas explore the legacy, or residue, of British colonialism in India. In the first novella,” The Museum of Final Journeys,” a junior functionary takes on the role of the departed English Foreign Service, takes on the attributes of the oppressor without questioning that role. His father has been a civil servant, rising through the ranks to a position of prestige, and he aspires to rise through the ranks as his father did. An ancient family servant to a once great and wealthy Indian prince convinces the functionary to visit the abandoned, decaying mansion. He walks through room after room of long decayed art treasures, collected by the son of the once owners of the property, and then finally is taken to see an elephant on the verge of starvation. The old servant asks him to save the elephant, but he concludes that he cannot do anything to help the elephant, and gets on with his life. Like his father, he rises to position and relative wealth, but he is troubled by recurring dreams about the elephant. He never allows himself to know that the continuing colonial power of which he is a part is starving the elephant, which is to say, not only India, but his Indian self. The dreams are eruptions of his repressed Indian self.
Other critics have said that windows open briefly, but Desai’s characters fail to seize the day. I think Desai is after more than that. This is a critique of colonialism, but what makes her writing so effective is that she is able to locate such a huge historical and political moment within a quite simple story of a man denying what he sees.
The second story, “Translator Translated,” takes up the problem of writing the colonized experience in the language of the colonizer. The point of view character, Prema, an English teacher, whose life is less than meaningful, begins to find meaning as a translator of short stories she has grown up with and loved, written in an indigenous language, and apparently quite familiar to all the people who speak that language. Her translation is a success and she is happy for the first time in her life. The author proves to be a recluse who doesn’t really want to make much time for her, does not connect with Prema’s fantasy of a warm friendship between writer and translator, where they might even become almost coequal in the production. She prevails upon the author to write a novel. But when she gets the novel she is disappointed. She finds none of the vividness and charm of the short stories. As a teacher of Jane Austin and George Elliot, Prema knows what a novel should be. So she revises as she translates, to bring the novel up to her standards. The novel is less than successful, but worse, a relative of the author comes to claim that it is badly translated, and at a reading, a voice in the crowd scolds Prema for translating the story into the language of the colonizer. The author chooses not to continue writing—she is busy developing schools in the poor districts from which her short stories were drawn. And Prema is forced back into the dreary life she had hoped to escape—riding the coattails of Austin and Eliot.
Desai is here writing in English, writing a novella –not a novel but close enough—about why Indians shouldn’t write novels in English. In Desai’s biography there is no clear indication that she ever spoke a truly remote, indigenous language, but she did speak several of the more common languages: Urdu, etc. I don’t quite see Desai herself as betraying her native language. She grew up speaking German, but I do notice that the story is told primarily in the third person past tense, except for two sections in first person, one past tense and one present tense. This breaks the traditional form of novels, at least, of the novels that Prema spends her life teaching—the nineteenth century British novel. Given the machinations of today’s young novel writers the challenge is hardly breathtaking, but it calls attention to the act of writing about the life of the colonized in a form that belongs to the colonizer. Desai tries to escape the novel. As does Prema, in her dismal life.
The story tells us the indigenous author could not write a novel. The stories she had to tell didn’t survive the passage into novels. They were pretty close to the anecdotes we tell each other every day about our lives, written in the language that community would tell its stories in. The indigenous author is not dependent on literature for a life: she is engaged in the process of living, of helping other people. But Prema is left, living an empty life on the margins of eighteenth and nineteenth century English novels.
The last story is less elegantly efficient than the first two, less elegantly shaped. In “The Artist of Disappearance,” an upper caste Indian couple in love with the values of the British, spend their lives aping the ways of the rulers. They travel in Europe, socialize with British neighbors. They have adopted an Indian son in whose welfare they are not at all interested. The boy barely survives, and that only with the help of the servants. He relates to things in nature, not to people. The parent’s social life is interrupted by a racist incident, when an English man beats up the husband for dancing with his wife. The boy is sent away to school, where he is miserable. Eventually he goes home to share his life with blind old woman supposed to be his tutor, his parents having departed somewhere for good. Somehow the old woman sets the house on fire and it burns up completely except for one room that still has walls and a roof, though black and smoked. A villager brings food and a cot for the now grown man, who seems to spend his life sitting on what is left of the veranda. And so he hardly survives as far as anyone knows. But he has a secret project: he finds a pool hidden in the jungle and turns it into a work of art. He drags trees and stones and arranges them all to make a beautiful space.
The western world shows up, in the form of documentary film makers from Delhi who wish to film the destruction of the jungle. A fine irony. They are not especially lucky in finding what they came for. Much is made in the story of film crews coming to film the beautiful scenery in this area. At one point, one of them discovers the artist’s pond. They succeed in filming the pond, but the villagers hide the artist, so they are never able to connect with him. Looking at the film, they find that the footage seems flat and boring. One says that they needed the artist for this to come alive. They pack up their cameras and leave, but the artist never goes back to his pond.
That is, the western world comes to see the scenery, not the people. They almost figure out that they are missing the soul of the people, that there is a soul immanent in the art of the pond, but, like the civil servant in the first story, they have no idea what to do about that.
This novella has an unusual shape. It seems to be two different short stories barely connected. My guess is that Desai is again working out the problem of how to tell the story of the colonized in the language of the colonizer.
The epigraph quotes Jorge Luis Borges, “One thing alone does not exist—oblivion.” The Artist of Disappearance seems to be about the internalized project of completely colonizing the indigenous culture. The project fails. - SQ
I sometimes wonder what makes a story good? Why do I stay up all night reading one book, while another I find so dull? As a writer, I want to know how to keep readers turning the pages. So, I decided to scan some reader reviews, searching for the answers.
Many of the responses suggested the pace was sluggish. In fact it seemed to be the number one complaint. Here are some of those review excerpts:
So the pace of the story is very important. What slows the tempo? What causes the story to lag? Here are some more detailed reviews.
Ok, so too many details, or too much description can cause a story to lag, become boring. Then what makes the story good?
By studying what reviewers say about books they like, or don't like, I found what to watch for in my own writing. - LG
Photo credit: Pixabay.com
Author: Judy Bobrow
Published: September 23, 2015
This is a book about Carrying On. It tells the story of four families who Carried On through health, sickness, loss, upheaval, change and challenge. In their travels through life, the luggage they carried was filled with their genes, the things they had been taught, and their own unique experiences. Part of the same family tree, they lived their lives Carrying On the values of those who had come before them and, by example, taught them to those who followed.
To learn more about the author, click here!
By: D.A. Henneman
Perhaps I shouldn't be so
Rough on myself and
Overly demanding of my time
Clearly I should be working on my book but the
Reality of it is ... I'm really not
Able to focus on one thing at a time.
Sometimes demands fight for my
Time and most often they win.
In those moments I throw my hands in defeat and do
As I sit with my own thoughts, staring at a blank sheet
The realization that I will need to work twice-as-hard later kicks in and
I am pained that I have wasted yet another afternoon
On menial tasks that keep me from working on the
Novel once again. I suppose there is always tomorrow.
Gail Honeyman creates a refreshing, unique, and memorable character with Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Eleanor is real, broken, and imperfect. She struggles with what life handed her in her own unusual ways. She sometimes makes bad choices and can be rude, but you can’t help but root for this character and be entranced by her authenticity. Honeyman makes Eleanor so real that she could nearly walk off the page.
Eleanor is a woman struggling to find the pieces of herself. She didn’t even know parts of her were missing until a friend enters her life. A friend is something she’s never had. Through the lens of another, she begins to examine herself and she begins to change. These changes bring a cascade of events that both enrich her life and nearly undo her. Eleanor’s voice is so rich and distinctive, the pull is intense to turn the page and find out how it all will end. Yet, whenever I thought I had the end predicted, Honeyman added another twist.
This is entertaining and thought provoking through and through. I think this is a must-read book.
How is your book coming along? Not very fast? Maybe you need more butt on chair time. How much time are you actually putting into writing your book? Are you actually writing during your scheduled writing time? There are so many questions to ask yourself.
For those who want writing as a full-time career and not just as a hobby, you need to treat your writing like a job. Even Hemingway committed to getting in 500 words a day.
Some days you might not feel like writing. If you don’t, do you push yourself through it? Do you make up for it another time? Do you just count it as a loss? To be professional you need to do one of first two. Otherwise you will never have a product to sell. Without a product, there is no income. Without an income, it’s a hobby.
I talked about writing my next book for a year. I have already published six books, yet all I did was talk about the next one. I didn’t do any butt in chair time because it wasn’t scheduled or I made a great excuse. Guess what, after a year I still don’t have a book.
I don’t have a new product to sell. Without that product, I’m not growing my business.
What I did to remedy that was schedule writing time this month. Unless I’m sick, my butt is in the chair and my hands are on the keyboard. Guess what – my book is now coming together.
If you want your book to be finished, you too need to schedule butt in chair time.
How about you? How is your book coming? What are you going to do to improve this?
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