No One Writes Back

 

No One Writes Back

No One Writes Back is a novel by South Korean author Eun-Jin Jang. The book is fairly short, and covers the travels of a young man traveling with his mp3 player and his dog. More comfortable with numbers than names, he gives each of the people he meets a number, then asks them to give him their address so he can write them a letter. He calls his old neighbor from time to time, asking about the mail. As the title suggests, no one ever writes back.

The story seems a little aimless, but the narration is still engaging enough to make up for it. And along the way, our hero (unnamed) meets a woman (whom he names 751) and strikes up an accidental platonic relationship with her. Against his will. She’s persistent.

The only caution I would give about this book is that, since the main character spends a lot of time at motels, there is a fair amount of sex mentioned. Not graphically, nor involving him, but still not something I would recommend for a kid.

This is a wonderful book, with a beautiful twist ending. (I did not cry. I’m kind of proud of myself.) I highly recommend it. ♥

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The Mailbox

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I picked up The Mailbox, by Audrey Shafer, at the used bookstore—based entirely on the cover art. It looked interesting, and I had store credit, so it wasn’t really a gamble.

The Mailbox is probably a middle-grade read; about junior high level, or maybe late elementary school. It’s a story about a boy who’s been in the foster system for years, is finally adopted by a loving (albeit grumpy) old uncle, who suddenly falls down dead one day at home. When twelve-year-old Gabe finds his uncle’s body, he is obviously grief-stricken—but he also decides not to tell anyone, because he doesn’t want to go back into foster care.

Then Gabe starts getting mysterious notes in the mailbox, notes addressed specifically to him. Notes that give him clues about his Uncle Vernon’s life. Notes telling him how to care for the big black dog who just showed up in his house. And he decides not to tell anyone about the notes, either.

If I have any complaints about The Mailbox, they’re about the dialog. Every now and then, someone says something out loud, and I just think, “Really? Who would say that?” The conversations are sometimes a little forced or awkwardly worded. Having said that, it’s still a great book.This book explores death, grief, war, PTSD, and does all of in an age-appropriate manner, with a brilliant plot line that keeps you interested. I would highly recommend it. ♦

 

A Quick Review

So apparently, I haven’t posted on here since July. I have a perfectly reasonable explanation:

I’m lazy.

Well, now that’s off my chest, let’s review a few things that have happened in the past 3 months:

  • My baby boy is almost 2 years old. He is obsessed with Snoopy (“Doopy”) and socks. Also jumping.
  • We decided to buy a house – and then realized how much a house costs. We are now accepting donations. Joking. Kind of.
  • We bought Jonathan some new shoes. He loves them so much he’s started doing more athletic things. Also more jumping.
  • I watched a round sausage of a wiener dog come barreling across the street toward me, belly almost hitting the ground, while its owner stood on the porch and shouted, “Stop! Come back! You’re making a fool out of yourself!”
  • A bunch of my family members had babies! Yay for babies! They are all cute, of course. But not as cute as mine. Sorry.
  • Everyone went back to school except for me. Muah ha ha.
  • I signed up for a cooking class with a neighbor! Which means I now know how to make delicious pumpkin curry soup and rosemary shortbread (which is actually pretty delicious.)
  • I discovered that adult-sized onesies are apparently a thing now. This is not okay, America.
  • I also discovered the most delicious pot-stickers in Provo. CupBop. 3 dumplings for $2. Easily the best I’ve ever had.
  • Ethan got rejected for a management job because he didn’t have managing experience. When he asked how to get managing experience if nobody will hire him as a manager, the interviewer shrugged and said, “You’re stuck!”
  • Ethan got promoted to Assistant Manager.
  • Jonathan decided that “bean doup” (bean soup… aka warm beans in water) was not for him, despite having begged for them. Cold beans, however, are totally fine. Just not the soup.
  • I discovered I’m not half bad at making bread.
  • We watched the LDS General Conference, loved it, and heard almost half of it over the sound of a two-year-old playing with plastic cups.
  • Ethan set a goal to read the whole Book of Mormon this month, inspired by said conference. I set a goal to exercise and study something – because apparently that’s what I’m most motivated to do when I’m really inspired.
  • We also set goals for spooky Halloween reading. Ethan’s reading Dracula and Frankenstein, while I read Something Wicked This Way Comes, Macbeth, and a few short story collections. Ethan is rocking it. I am falling rather far behind.
  • I taught John to jump on crunchy leaves.
  • John fell off of two picnic benches (on different days), and landed on his head. No permanent damage.
  • We discovered tikka masala potato chips. Which led to our discovering tikka masala recipes. Indian food is so freaking delicious.
  • I cut my own hair. It took me about two hours, and it looks good enough to go out in public. Not good enough to escape mockery from a hairdresser friend, however. So…. 6/10. ♦

The Art of Racing in the Rain

the art of racing in the rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is a bestseller. So when I wandered through a thrift shop in St. George and found it in their books section for only twenty-five cents, I bought it immediately. Even if I don’t like it, I thought, I’ll just give it to Pioneer Book. It’s only a twenty-five cent risk.

I knew nothing about this book going into it, except that there was a dog on the front cover and the book is popular. I expected some sappy story about a dog doing great things and then dying, and assumed it would be a tear-jerker.

Technically, all of those things were true. But what this book actually is, is more of a philosophical musing on humanity generally, told through the eyes of an outsider (the dog Enzo.) It’s the story of Denny, his wife’s death, and his terrible struggle with his no-good-dirty-rotten-in-laws for custody of his daughter Zoë.  It’s about life, love, death, and the refusal to give up on the things that matter most.

This is a beautiful book. I was not, however, moved to tears by it. I knew I probably should be. And since I weep openly at Disney movies, I was very surprised that I didn’t end up with at least a little water in my eyes. But I think what happened was this: somehow, I didn’t connect with the characters quite enough. I knew it was fiction. Maybe it was because the main character was a dog. Or maybe it’s because so much of the book is musings about death, the afterlife, and ethics generally – and I’ve been brought up in a very spiritual environment that frequently address these as everyday topics. But somehow, I found myself saying, “This book has a lot of soul,” without feeling like it really touched mine.

Also, here’s a content warning: there’s a lot of foul language in this book. Like, at least half a dozen F-bombs. (I wasn’t really counting.) Also some nudey scenes (told from a dog’s perspective, these are less erotic than you’d think), death, sexual assault, and some generally very heavy content. In a nutshell, this book is rated-R. If you want a lighter version, I just learned today that there’s a “for young readers” version (with a puppy on the front cover, which I think is hilarious.) If you’re fine with the content, however, it’s a great book.

I give this book 4 stars. It’s well-written, tells a beautiful story, and leaves you with a lot of hope for humanity. I can’t give it 5 stars, though, because there was still something missing. I don’t know what it is – it just didn’t connect with me like it should have. ♦

Love That Dog

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Okay, confession time. This one made me cry.

It’s a kid’s book. A kid’s poetry book. Well, sort of. It’s a kid’s poetry journal. It’s a story told through a kid’s poetry journal for his English class, and he doesn’t want to write poems (because boys don’t write poems, girls do), but he does it anyway and ends up writing some really good poems.

And also, his dog died.

Sharon Creech made it sound a lot better than that, okay? I cried. That poor dog. He loved that dog so much.

Seriously, though, Love That Dog is a fantastic book. I still feel a little silly crying over it (I’m tearing up now. Stupid yellow dog.) – but I still hold that this is a wonderful book, especially for someone who’s not that into poetry, or a kid just learning about poetry. It’s wonderful. You should all go read it. But maybe grab a Kleenex. ♦

Not a Morning Person

When I was a teenager, I had a computer in my room. I thought it was awesome – I could play games, listen to music, write, and even occasionally venture out onto the internet (although this was rare, as I lived in the days of dial-up). The thing is, though, this computer was made in or around 1995. It was a bit of a dinosaur. I would push the “on” button, go watch The Simpsons with my dad, then come back to see the desktop screen finally loading. I had a similar problem shutting it down; usually, I would tell it to shut down, go to bed, and then doze off while the computer lazily worked its way to the “It’s now safe to turn off your computer” screen. Then I would have to get out of bed to hit the “off” button. Occasionally, it would freeze while shutting down or booting up.

My sleeping habits remind me of this computer. When I wake up in the morning, it’s something like this:

Oh. It’s morning.

There’s my alarm.

Hmm. I hear things.

I wonder if my eyes work yet.

Nope. It’s bright out there. That was stupid.

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…and so on. Half an hour later, I might slide out of bed onto the floor, look around blearily, and stagger like a drunk to the bathroom to take a warm shower. Going to sleep is similar: lie down, close eyes, slowly let brain unwind, toss and turn, mutter a little bit, gradually drift off to semi-consciousness, eventually start snoring.

My husband, on the other hand, is like a wind-up matchbox car. The kind you crank up, put on the floor, and it just flies across the room. At night, he runs out of juice and stops. One second he’s discussing a topic of importance, the next he’s out cold, sawing logs. While he sleeps, that little crank inside him winds up, and the instant he wakes up in the morning, he just takes off!

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This morning, he compared it to a light switch. He wakes up instantly. Flip a switch in his brain, and he’s good to go. I wake up like a sunrise. Eventually, it’ll be day. In the meantime, it’s kind of getting light, sort of. Gradually. Don’t rush it, man.

The contrast was especially clear this morning. I was blearily aware that the alarm was going off. Ethan hit the snooze button, turned over, and said, “Good morning!”

I said, “Mmmph.”

Ethan said, “Man, that was weird. I had a dream that it was Sunday, and that I woke up and I looked at the clock and it said 4:30! Then I got up and checked the microwave, and the clock out there said 4:30, too! So I was running all over the place trying to figure out if it was some kind of a joke, and then I was all panicky because we’d slept through church. And then I was just freaking out, trying to figure out how we managed to sleep for like 20 hours anyway, because there’s no way that was healthy. So I woke you up and told you what was wrong, and you were like, ‘I turned the clocks over last night.’ And I was trying to figure out why you would do that, and what that was supposed to mean.”

My brain said, “What’s going on?” My mouth said, “Mmm?”

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Ethan continued to describe the enormous churro he was dreaming about after that, then hit the snooze button on the alarm again and asked if I was getting up. I slurred, “I’m getting up at 7.”

Ethan said, “Okay,” turned over, and went back to sleep. Just like that. This happened again at 7, except this time I was in the shower trying to figure out how to talk when he was telling me about the churro. I don’t think I was fully functional until he’d already gotten dressed, made breakfast, and given up on conversation for the time being. Poor guy. I’m trying, Ethan. I’m trying. ♦

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A New Arrival!

To all of you folks out there who think my mother deserves grandchildren, you’re in for a treat!

Our family has a new addition!

This is Churchill. He’s a Basset Hound, and he is pretty crazy adorable, if I do say so myself. My dad’s been begging for a dog for about 3 years now, and my mom finally caved! We stopped off by the side of the road by a “puppies for sale” sign a few weeks ago. It was more of a whim; giving Dad his puppy fix before gently saying, “No, we can’t take him home,” and leaving. Except Mom and I fell in love. (With the dog… not each other.) Dad really wanted to take home the female, but we just kind of looked at him like, “Are you crazy? Just look at this little guy!”

So far, Churchill is a good pup. He’s much mellower than past dogs we’ve had (most of whom were the most spastic of Labradors ever created.) He is adorable. And he is now sleeping through the night, which is a very good thing. He has not yet learned to howl, for which we are grateful. (It’s hilarious to listen to him try, though.) And he has an endearing habit of trying to eat your pants while you’re wearing them.

He does, however, have a troubled life. The poor dog may never know what his real name is. I named him Churchill, and occasionally call him Hilly or Hilly-O. My mother calls him Winny (short for Winston,) which has all the neighborhood kids convinced that he’s a girl. My father insists on calling him Waldorf, for reasons nobody may ever know, and insists that his full legal name is Winston Waldorf Churchill – which it simply never has been, nor ever will be. Zac (one of the neighborhood kids) has decided that his name is Rock Star, and frequently refers to him as Star. And, of course, he is frequently called Puppy, Pup, Puppy Dog, Dawg, and various other derivatives of a canine nature. In time, he may become convinced that his name is the sound of a whistle, because that’s the only consistent thing he hears.

Possibly in an act of bitter vengeance for his confusion, he has decided that the most perfect time to pee is right after he comes into the house. I feel bad for him. He pees on the kitchen floor. We put him out, clean the floor, and leave him for a while, so he won’t get any positive reinforcement (and so he can empty his bladder.) We feel sorry for him. We let him in to play. He comes romping inside, very excited, and pees on the floor. So we put him out again. He seems especially fond of the kitchen floor and my brother’s carpet, which is exactly why I am not allowing him in my room under any circumstances.

Fortunately, he’s cute. So I think we’ll keep him. The potty-training continues, but aside from that, he’s a very good dog. If you want your toes pounced on, please drop on by!