The Indian

indian

This is the craziest book I’ve read in a while. Ethan picked up The Indian, by Jón Gnarr, because it was Icelandic. Almost no other reason. It’s just hard to find Icelandic books here. And he read it in only a few days, laughed hysterically, and told me I had to drop everything and read it immediately.

So I did. And this book is a laugh riot. It’s like Calvin and Hobbes, but with swearing. And it’s true (or mostly true, anyways.) The book is a memoir by the author, who talks about his childhood. He had ADHD, several learning disabilities, very little behavioral inhibitions, and older parents who couldn’t keep up with him. The book alternates between hilarious and heartbreaking, as he talks about his shenanigans, his family dysfunction, and his consuming loneliness as a child.

As a boy, Jón set his room on fire because he wanted to read Duck Tales by a blazing campfire like a real Indian would. And if that doesn’t convince you to pick up the book…well, you’re probably not the target audience anyway. ♦

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Broken Things to Mend

holland

Broken Things to Mend was given to me by a friend and neighbor, shortly after learning that I was struggling with depression.* Which was kind of funny, because several other people had already recommended the book that week.

I had actually read this book before, but didn’t remember most of it (even while reading it again.) Jeffrey R. Holland is one of my favorite speakers, and he is an especially compassionate Church leader. It was good to read something from him.

This book is a collection of talks/essays, so it’s hard to give the book an overall summary, but I will say this: the first section is wonderful. I can’t say it gave me any tools for overcoming depression, but it did give me hope (which I guess is the opposite of depression anyway.) And more than that, Holland does a very good job of pointing out that having something “broken” about you doesn’t make you any less human than every other person on earth, and that’s the entire reason we need Christ. So it was a good, healing perspective.

My one complaint about the book (and another book I’ve read by Elder Holland, actually) is that the collection is pretty random. The first section is about mending broken things (hence the name.) But after that, it’s just general gospel topics. A bit about the Restoration, a bit about missionary work, a bit about the nature of God. I mean, these are all important topic, but it didn’t feel cohesive. I would rather have read several shorter books, all with their own topics.

Anyways. I always recommend Jeffrey R. Holland. If you don’t want to go out and pick up a whole book, check out one of his talks on lds.org. He’s a gifted speaker and a wonderful man of God. ♥

*When I picked up the book from my mailbox, my upstairs neighbor asked what it was. “Broken Things to Mend, from Lisa,” I said. He hadn’t heard of the book. He thought she was just sending me old junk to fix.

Every Day is Mother’s Day

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My son peed on my head yesterday. He was on the swings, and I gave him an underdog. Just as I came out from under him, I watched an arc of water go cascading over the playground, splashing across me. Poor kid got so excited he just couldn’t hold it in.

This was several hours after the shoes fiasco. If you want to lose control of your life completely, tell a toddler to go put his shoes on. You may never leave the house again.

Picture this: I’m standing in the bathroom, watching him walk into his room for his shoes. He walks out with a birthday present for the neighbor. “Go get your shoes,” I remind him. He walks the other way to get the shoes. Hustles past with a butterfly  net. “Shoes!” Walks past with something in the net (not a shoe.) “SHOES!!”

Five minutes later, I’m standing in my room holding a butterfly net full of train blocks, unsure of how I got there. My son has brought one sandal into the room and is spinning in circles trying to find the other one, which I am repeatedly telling him is in the living room.

If you’re reading this, call your mother. Thank her. You survived to adulthood somehow, despite all those times you peed on her head, smeared food on her clothes, barfed down her cleavage, and spent forty minutes “putting on your shoes.” And that means your mother is a saint. ♥

Man Tiger

First of all, you should know that typing “Man Tiger” into Google Images can give you some really weird results. Some very misguided plastic surgery, for instance.

man tiger

Man Tiger, by Eka Kurniawan, was the book I picked up for Indonesia. And it was wonderful/horrible. By that, I mean it was a wonderfully written account of horrible things.

The book is fiction, probably magical realism. It tells the story of Margio, who has been imprisoned for biting a man to death. That’s right. He bit through the man’s throat. He argues that it wasn’t him; it was the white tiger that lives inside him. The rest of the book tells the story of his family, how they came to live in this village, the hardships his mother endured at the hands of his father, the hardships his father endured, the crap the kids had to go through, the death of a baby, an illicit affair, and a love lost through someone else’s mistakes. It weaves a tangled story that doesn’t seem to make sense until near the end, where I could honestly sympathize with Margio even if he did kill the man himself. But the dead man certainly didn’t deserve it.

This book tells a violent, complex tale of misery. It’s heavy and brilliant—I won’t say beautiful, because it’s too suffocating for that. But I’m very glad I read it, and I would probably pick up a novel by Kurniawan again. ♦

Too Crazy in the Bookstore

I took Jonathan to Pioneer Book the other day, mostly to work on the summer bingo sheet they gave me. I mean, to let him look at the books and say hi to Dad, of course. That’s what I meant.

He helped Dad scan books for a while, but soon Ethan told me I had to take him. He was getting too crazy. So I took John with me to the children’s section. No sooner had we gotten there, than he smacked the globe in the corner, knocking it off the track and down into the wooden framework.

I fixed the globe, then hauled him out of the store to go to bed early. “You’re in trouble,” I said. “You broke the globe, so now you have to go to bed early.” I dragged him out the back exit and toward the car.

On the way to the car I listened to him muttering, “I have to go to bed early. I have to go to bed early because I was so crazy I broke the world in half.” Yup. Close enough, kid. ♦

The City of Ember

ember

Okay, so if you watched the movie, The City of Ember isn’t quite as surprising. Spoiler alert: when you already know the story, you already know the story.

But the book is waaaaay better than the movie. The City of Ember is one of those books I picked up on a whim, and then didn’t put down for about three days except when my husband reminded me that I have adult responsibilities. And I’m not really going to claim that the laundry got done over those three days, either.

Jeanne DuPrau has somehow written a fantasy/steampunk/dystopia/thriller for kids. But also still just as interesting for adults. It’s great.

In a nutshell, the book is about this little community that lives in a dark world, lit only by electricity. But the lights keep going out, and the food is running out, and nobody knows how to fix anything. And two kids are the only people who actually believe there’s any way out.

It’s a wonderful page-turner, and I’ve already got the sequel (The People of Sparks) on my TBR shelf. ♦

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair

guinevere

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair, by Amy Makechnie, is now one of my favorite books. It’s beautiful. And my cousin wrote it, which makes me famous by association.

Guinevere St. Clair and her sister Bitty have been moved to their parents’ hometown of Crow, Iowa. It’s an attempt to get their mother, Vienna, to get her memories back.

When Guinevere was four years old, her mother’s heart stopped beating. After precious minutes were lost, she came miraculously back to life, but without any of her memories since the age of thirteen. So now Guinevere is helping her father take care of Vienna (who she does not call Mom, since she doesn’t act like one.) Vienna doesn’t remember her children, and usually acts like a child herself.

Also, now that they’re in Iowa, Guinevere has made fast friends with the neighbors, discovered her arch-enemy, and is working on a missing-persons case in her spare time (behind her father’s back, since he keeps telling her to stop poking her nose in other people’s business.)

This is a well-written story that will plant you straight into the Midwest, manure and all. It’s brilliantly written, and offers a realistic, yet still optimistic, look at grief and life’s sometimes horrible surprises. It offers character everywhere it offers pain.

And, as an added bonus for me, there’s little family-story cameos scattered in a couple places. But if you didn’t grow up around Copes, you probably won’t catch those. Which means they’re aptly woven into the text.

I know the author, so I have a bias. I’ll admit that. But as objectively as I can say this, I think this should win the Newbery. And everyone should read it. ♥