Reading when you’re not the target audience

When I was in my late 20s to early 30s, we went through some fairly severe financial crises. I learned a lot during that time about who I am, what kind of parent I am and want to be, what my priorities are, and what I’m capable of professionally.

In The Kickass Single Mom, Emma Johnson writes about how, when her husband left her and their small children when she was in her early 30s, she learned a lot about who she was, what kind of parent she was and wanted to be, what her priorities were, and what she was capable of professionally.

Two observations: first, there may be something about the way life goes in your 30s that sneaks up on people and causes them to really examine how they want to live their lives. Life can take all sorts of turns you don’t expect and cause profound changes in how you do things–even if you stay married. And second, you never know where you might find more affinity with a demographic group than you’d think at first glance.

I’m not a single mom, nor am I planning to become one, but reading a book completely geared toward that demographic gave me some very useful tips and insight. I prepped my husband in advance before he did the library run. He thought it was kind of funny that I was reading The Kickass Single Mom, and opined that the cartoon avatar of the mom on the cover looked like me. On a more serious note, we wound up talking about a lot of the information in the book, through my issues with financial insecurity, and what we could do about that. It was great fodder for discussion.

single mom bookI picked up the book based on reviews that highlighted the author’s upbeat tone and sound financial advice to a group of women who are widely thought of as extremely busy, pulled in many directions, and under a lot of stress. I fall into some of those categories myself, and really appreciated the insights about the true value of outsourcing, how to handle financial fear, and how to balance work with high-impact parenting.

I’m especially interested in the outsourcing argument. The author did a terrific job of explaining when and how outsourcing tasks makes sense, and how sometimes we get into a mindset that we must do X, Y, or Z when actually those tasks run counter to our goals and priorities and cost us more in time and money than we would expect.

I also found plenty to disagree with. I had to remind myself as I skimmed several parts that while I can sympathize with some of the challenges facing a single mom, I am not actually the target audience, and women in different circumstances may need to hear different types of advice and encouragement (and still, I disagreed with a lot of it). I was shocked and saddened by the fact that even with an upbeat tone, so many, many aspects of divorce came through the narrative as terribly destructive and devastating–both emotionally and financially.

Overall, a lot of the advice in The Kickass Single Mom is relevant for women in their 30s-40s regardless of marital status. This is the time of life to lean in to who you are in all of your life roles: the time to pour into your children if you have them, the time to get your feet under you in all sorts of ways. And because we never know what circumstances are around the bend, it would be wise for all women to understand their family’s financial picture and know what to do if disaster strikes.

If your particular brand of adulthood has left you with fear or uncertainty about finances or a precarious work-life balance, The Kickass Single Mom might be helpful to skim–as long as you’re the sort of person who can gloss over parts that don’t fit your bill.

Just curious, do you think the 30s are a peculiarly change-focused decade? Or are you on the same general trajectory you were at 22? 

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Book shopping

hallelujahI’ve been doing a little Black Friday shopping, and was happy to see an Amazon code for $5 off of a $20 book purchase. Enter GIFTBOOK17 at checkout.

You probably already have books in your cart, but, if not, here are some ideas:

Christmas picture books – The link is to reviews of 20 of our favorites. It makes me so happy to read Christmas books!

Our new Christmas read-aloud – We’re going to try out The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaardner. I like the format and premise, and the kids usually love mysteries.

We’re listening to/learning about Handel’s Messiah together – I just finished reading Hallelujah by Cindy Rollins and I am super impressed. The book is a combination of short daily portions of the Messiah to listen to daily, the Scripture passage associated with the piece, and detailed notes about what to listen for musically. Interspersed with the daily readings are inspiring essays about integrating traditions and music into your Advent season. Highly recommended.

Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ – I usually like Tim Keller’s work, so I am looking forward to reading this recent release.

Behold the Lamb of God – I’m reading this for an Advent Biblestudy. It comes highly recommended.

Box Sets – If you need a gift for a young reader, boxed sets are a good use of coupons like this one. The link is to one of our favorites–The Mysterious Benedict Society series.

Also book-related – If you’re a Harry Potter fan, the boxed set of the movies is on CRAZY sale today, just $23.99 for the eight movies!

If you’re book shopping today, what did you get?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Whenever you click through to Amazon from A Spirited Mind and make any purchase, I get a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for all of your support!

When books are…fine.

If you follow me on GoodReads, you’ve probably noticed that I rate almost everything at three stars. I wish there were more options. Three stars can mean books that were pretty good but not life-changing, or that I’m happy I read but probably wouldn’t re-read. Or they can mean books that were just…fine. Not poorly written or annoying enough to rate a two-star designation, but overall lackluster.

See what I mean? We need more differentiation, or at least a clear framework of what constitutes different ratings.

Then again, it’s just GoodReads.

I need to get better at weeding out the low-threes. Often, it’s the sort of book with potential: I like the author’s other work, or the concept is interesting. But then, it doesn’t deliver. And yet, I keep hoping that it will pick up until, at last, it peters out at the end.

97 orchardIn one recent example, I read 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement. Great title, right? The premise is solid: food history, immigrant history, tenement history…and there were some good moments. I did learn a few things. But, overall, the book read like a lengthier version of an early college term paper. It didn’t feel in-depth enough, there wasn’t enough analysis, and it didn’t read in an original way. So, maybe I went in with expectations that were too high, but I wound up disappointed. It wasn’t a bad book, just not great. I’m not sure at what point I should have cut my losses.

at-home-in-the-world-bookAnother title that I fully expected to love was Tsh Oxenrider’s At Home in the World. I really enjoy Tsh’s podcast, have read her other books, and would love to travel the world with my family. Again, perhaps it wasn’t fair to impose such high expectations, or perhaps Tsh’s book suffered from my inevitable comparison to the similarly themed Mother Tongue (link is to my review).

Unlike Mother Tongue, At Home felt very surface-level, like skimming on top of the travel, the locations, the issues, and the conclusions Tsh and her family experienced on their trip. I was reading the book for inspiration and insight, but instead I kept wishing for more in-depth stories, for richer descriptions, for actual details of off-hand comments.

  • For example, Tsh tosses off lines about how the trip was tough on the marriage relationship. Really? How? I’d be interested to know the pitfalls in case we ever do something like that.
  • She mentions homeschooling on the road with passing reference to Kindles and worksheets. OK, can you let us know how you changed your goals to accommodate the travel, how you managed to fit in school, how you pulled in your travels for history/geography/literature/art/whatever, or what kind of schedule you kept, or how the kids fared academically after the year on the road?
  • We get a glimpse of some sort of existential soul-searching going on, but there is only loose linkage to the travel happening and because we don’t understand the problem, we can’t see how travel helped her wrestle with it. A cursory description of a visit to a spiritual advisor and a walk through a labyrinth is not enough. It seems like if you don’t want to really explore a topic, you shouldn’t bring it up in your memoir.
  • I wanted more detail about the travel itself. How did the logistics work, how did they manage to work on the road, how did they set up for that in advance? How did it work out day to day? Were there times when money dried up or ebbed (a serious reality in contracting and freelance work)? Were there times when they changed plans because of money? Did this cause them any worry? I’m left not really knowing how they made it work, and thus I’m not inspired to figure out my own possibilities.
  • The whole trip felt random. We don’t hear enough about the decision-making part of setting the itinerary. We don’t know why they stayed a short time in some places or other. We don’t really ever get a glimpse into cultures. There isn’t much personal connection. Contrasting that with Mother Tongue, where the whole book is about deep connections and real conflicts and the author wrestling with how her own personality comes out in her travels, I was left feeling pretty blah about At Home.

So it was fine. And I kept reading because I’m hosting the book club that’s meeting to discuss it. But as I read, I kept checking how many pages I had left. If you’re interested in At Home in the World because of the content and premise, I’d highly recommend Mother Tongue instead. And if you’re interested because you’re a fan of Tsh Oxenrider (as I am!), I found her book Notes From a Blue Bike far, far better.

Life is short. Books can’t all be winners. And books can show up at the wrong time for me while being perfect for someone else. Still, I would love to only read high-threes and above. And so I’m pondering how to revise my book selection criteria once again. I’m thinking that if I’m not wowed or at least firmly hooked by page 50, I’m going to let go. If I read much past that point, I’ll feel like I’ve invested too much time to give up. And if I already know after the first chapter, I’ll be ok with leaving then, too.

How about you? Do you abandon books when you feel blah about them, or only when they are absolutely awful? Have you identified any ways to weed out the low-threes on your shelf?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for clicking through to Amazon from A Spirited Mind!

Making it up as we go

IMG_7057Margaret turned two last week. I spent a long time working on her cake, because it was the last time I would ever make a two-year-old birthday cake for one of my children.

Perhaps as a weird consequence of the dramatic events of Margaret’s birth, which included a lot of life changes that I didn’t get a chance to think through and prepare for, I have a habit of rolling events like this around, taking hyper-notice, really marveling at every detail. You just don’t know when it will be your last chance.

But as it turned out, this was not the last time I made a cake for a two-year-old after all. Actually that moment happened when I wasn’t noticing, back when Eliza turned two. Instead of being my last hurrah, Margaret’s bunny cake met with a cataclysmic tragedy and ended up as a sad mess of over-rolled fondant and broken cake pieces in the trash can.

As I drove to the grocery store to get an overpriced, under-decorated facsimile, annoyed and frustrated, I catalogued all of the things I could have been doing other than spending hours making a cake that didn’t even turn out: doing client work, writing a blog newsletter, sorting the five bags of whatnot in my closet that I really need to take to Goodwill…

You see, in this fifth time through having a two-year-old, I have the unique (for me) circumstance of having a life and schedule that do not work, even on paper. Usually, by the time the baby is two, the wheels are back on and I’ve MacGuyvered a way to fit everything all in. This time? Nope. I’ve tried. I’ve tracked my time. I’ve made schedules and ideal day lists and cut and cut and cut, but no. The stuff I want to do does not all fit at once.

So there’s never a “typical” week. I surge in one area, then another. One week, you’d think I’m working too much. Another, that I’m a slave to my homeschool. You might think I never exercise, or that I exercise so much I ought to be in the Olympics by now. Sometimes I’m learning French. Sometimes I’m barely writing in English. There are even weeks when I’m getting enough sleep (“Really?” my husband asks, “When are those weeks?”)

I’ll own it: this is not balance. Everyone has advice. I don’t fit into any box, but surely I could fit in a box if I would just focus on my business and work more. Or stop working entirely and write a novel instead. Or whatever. I get it from books, too. Jay Papasan would say that going off in so many different directions is a recipe for not achieving anything.

But I am coming around to being at peace with this too-much-but-not-enough life. The fact is, I’m not ok with clearing the decks of all but One Thing. I don’t match up with any given single role, but maybe that’s not a problem. Maybe that’s  a sign that I really am in the right lane. It’s not the same lane anyone else is in, and it’s not really a position from which I can come up with a bunch of universally applicable top-ten-ways-to-rock-it articles. But this is my calling, and I’m living my life, not someone else’s.

I like how Hope Jahren puts this, in her unexpectedly excellent and thoroughly fascinating literary/science memoir, Lab GirlI’ve never been personally interested in paleo-botany, but I love reading about other people who are passionate about their work, and who so clearly love their unusual and one-of-a-kind lives. I highly recommend the book in its entirety, but this part resonated with me, particularly.

I have been told that I am intelligent, and I have been told that I am simple-minded. I have been told that I am trying to do too much, and I have been told that what I have done amounts to very little…I have been admonished for being too feminine and I have been distrusted for being too masculine. I have been warned that I am far too sensitive and I have been accused of being heartlessly callous. But I was told all of these things by people who can’t understand the present or see the future any better than I can. Such recurrent pronouncements have forced me to accept that because I am a female scientist, nobody knows what the hell I am, and it has given me the delicious freedom to make it up as I go along.

I spent too much of my 20s and 30s worrying whether I was living up to everyone’s expectations and all the right cultural dictates, if I was making good on my education, if I was on the right path.

IMG_7062Now, miraculously enough, I have this fifth go-round with a two-year-old, and I’m just making it up as I go along. Work piles up, my kids can’t read Greek, and I sometimes buy the cheap soft bread at the store instead of the sprouted kind. But I take these one-off moments and savor them. I obey the toddler lisp to “Sing a SONG!” and stop to listen when the preschooler pleads, “And also, Mama, and ALSO…” I hug the moody pre-teens and tell them cautionary tales, and I am pleasantly surprised every day when my husband arrives home safe and sound. And yes, I also turn the kids over to the babysitter and write websites and marketing strategies. I go to writer’s group or book club. And sometimes I sit on the couch with a book while the melee careens all around me.

It’s all too much, it’s never enough, and it’s no one’s idea of a good time but mine. We have a two-year-old again, and for the last time ever. It’s a rainy day, there is oatmeal in Eliza’s hair, and the big kids are running around like headless chickens, having forgotten to do their theory assignments for piano lessons. I look at this never-to-be-repeated moment and notice each detail, and I say with the PsalmistThe Lord has done this; it is marvelous in my eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Happy birthday, Margaret. I’m sorry about how the cake turned out, but you were worth the effort!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Hodge Podge: Car Books + 1

Whenever we find ourselves in the car as a group, we listen to audio books. With five kids in tow, it’s not like we would otherwise have in-depth conversations–we save that for one-on-one time. Instead, we allay fights and complaints with an engaging story. Here are a few we’ve listened to lately, plus one additional read-aloud that–as with critical pieces of plot exposition–was added because it had to go somewhere.

The BFG – The kids had all read this one independently but I hadn’t heard it before. It’s terribly funny. My favorite part was the queen and her butler and the line about how the queen prefers bagpipes. Highly recommended.

Misty of Chicoteague – This short book is an interesting story about a brother and sister who capture and tame a wild horse, and is another one of those books that highlights just how much kids were allowed to do in days of yore.

james-giant-peachJames and the Giant Peach – Come to think of it, yes, we were on a bit of a Roald Dahl tear. This was another re-read (actually, I think we have read this one aloud at least three times, and the kids have read it independently, but it still bears repeating!) but well worth it. The audio version of this book is terrific. The voices are very well done. Highly recommended.

The Adventures of Richard Wagner – We read this aloud from a paper book, so have no idea as to the quality of the audio version, but here it is anyway. Normally, we love books by Opal Wheeler, and were looking forward to this biography of the composer Richard Wagner as a child. Unfortunately, this one was just not up to Opal’s usual snuff. We found this book dull and only very tangentially related to Wagner’s composing career. The others in the series are far better.

What have you listened to in the car lately?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Hodge Podge: Literary Casserole Edition

FullSizeRender (1)One runs out of themes for Hodge Podge reviews. So think of this round-up as that sort of casserole you make when you haven’t been to the store in eight days and all you have is half of a leftover chicken breast, 3/4 cup of taco meat, a bag of frozen green beans, a can of chickpeas, a bowl of last night’s rice, a wizened onion, and sheer determination.

But I digress. And now, the books.

Beowulf – This is a re-read for me, but Hannah is reading the Seamus Heaney translation, and it’s so terrific. “He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain, limping and looped in it.” If you love words, this is for you. The illustrated edition is particularly fascinating.

Man’s Search for Meaning – I liked the personal memoir narrative of the first part, but got bored with the psychological treatise of the second part. Gist: regardless of your circumstances, you can choose your response.

The Valley of Vision – I read this book of prayers in small doses, and was not sure exactly what to do with it. I found some thought-provoking and/or helpful ways of thinking about/praying about things, but I’m not sure I’d re-read it.

Teaching From Rest – This was a re-read (link is to the original review), and is a great example of a book that hits you in exactly the right way the first time, is integrated into your life and way of thinking, and then doesn’t have a lot to add the second time around. It’s a good book, but maybe not one that requires re-reading.

Time to Write – If you are just starting out in writing, and have read absolutely nothing at all on writing or time management, you might find this book helpful. Sometimes I pick up books like this, thinking, “Help! Someone tell me how to [find time to write/make a living as a writer/be creative/etc]!” and then I read the book and think, “Oh, I guess I already do that.” I guess it’s as good a cure for imposter syndrome as any.

What have you been reading lately?

Note: The picture in this post has nothing to do with casserole or books. It’s just the corner of my desk: zinnias from the garden, a picture of my great-grandmother holding a chicken, and a print from Gracelaced that reminds me to watch my words.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Jack’s 5th Grade

DSC_0137
Jack does just about everything full-throttle, so educating him is a bit of a wild ride. He’s either fiercely interested–discussing things at a wildly high level and wrangling ideas like untamed wildebeests–or he’s fiercely bored and dragging his feet and his pencil and having to learn the hard way to love what must be done.

Welcome to fifth grade at our house this fall.

IMG_6989Jack is doing a modified version of Ambleside Online Year 5. My modifications were adding several additional science books and biographies, and picking up the pace on a couple of other readings. I wanted to give him a little more challenge while also giving him space to get better at following through on assignments.

Like Hannah and Sarah, Jack has a weekly clipboard that lists his daily work, work done together with everyone else, and co-op classes (on the right) and the categories from which he chooses one assignment per day (on the left).

We have a daily hour or so in which we discuss his readings, written work, Latin assignment, and math. He narrates (tells back, in detail and sequence) every reading except for free reads, and he does one written narration per day. Each week he has to put on revised piece of writing into his history notebook and his literature notebook, and he writes all of his science experiments and observations in a separate science notebook. Jack’s readings are below, with links for books I added or have already reviewed separately.

History & Geography (all narrated*)

  • This Country of Ours
  • The Story of Mankind
  • The Complete Book of Marvels (Halliburton)
  • Geography (Van Loon)
  • What the World Eats
  • Abraham Lincoln’s World
  • Story of the World, Volume 4

Historical Biography (all narrated*)

  • A Passion for the Impossible (Lilias Trotter)
  • Always Inventing (Alexander Graham Bell)
  • Carry a Big Stick (Teddy Roosevelt)
  • Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics
  • Something Out of Nothing (Marie Curie)
  • George Washington Carver

Literature & Historical Fiction (all narrated*)

IMG_6991Poetry

  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • John Greenleaf Whittier
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar

Science (all narrated* and all experiments written up)

Free Reading (not narrated, but required reading)

  • Black Horses for the King
  • Little Women
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Captains Courageous
  • Puck of Pook’s Hill
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • The Prince and the Pauper
  • Treasure Island
  • Lad: A Dog
  • The Treasure Seekers
  • The Wouldbegoods
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Long Winter
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
  • Hans Brinker
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (this is re-re-re-re-read, but really, it’s so good)
  • Rifles for Watie
  • Across Five Aprils
  • Rilla of Ingleside
  • Falcons of France
  • Goodbye Mr. Chips
  • The Story of My Life
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • The Rescuers
  • The Cricket in Times Square
  • Homer Price
  • The Great Brain
  • King Arthur (Lanier version)
  • Moccasin Trail
  • Sacajawea (Bruchac version)

Bible

  • 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles
  • Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Language

Math

  • Learn Math Fast
  • I’m still unsure where to place Jack this year, because he basically finished Saxon 7/6 and tested as ready forArt of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra, but he has a LOT of conceptual holes so I know AoPS would frustrate him. So, for now, we are focusing on Learn Math Fast through pre-algebra, in hopes that the conceptual review framework will help prepare him. And then maybe next semester–or even next year–we will dive in to AoPS.

Co-op (classes meet once a week)

  • Engineering
  • Handicrafts
  • Junior Achievement BizTown (economics)

Other (subjects we do together with the other kids, more in a separate post)

  • More science (The Way Things WorkApologia Chemistry and Physics)
  • Church history (Trial & Triumph)
  • Citizenship (Plutarch’s Lives)
  • Indiana state history (various historical fiction, biographies, history spine)
  • Literature (Shakespeare play per term–Richard III this fall, daily poetry, poetry memorization, family read-alouds)
  • Artist study (Durer, this term)
  • Composer study (we were doing Telemann and Corelli, but may switch to Kabalevsky)
  • Nature study (using John Muir Laws guide)
  • Piano lessons

And that’s fifth grade for Jack. Kind of intense some days, but often truly amazing. It’s the sort of person he is!

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Wanderlust: Read, Listen, Cook, Eat

To my dismay, my city does not offer any $59 flights to other continents. It doesn’t even offer low fares to other cities that are within a four-hour drive. Thus, my wanderlust must find other, cheaper outlets. In case you’re in the same boat, here are four suggestions for assuaging your peripatetic soul this weekend.

gemma hardy coverRead

The Flight of Gemma Hardy delivers yet another Jane Eyre retelling, but winsomely set in Scotland. In case you already live in Scotland and think that sounds tame, a good chunk of the story is set in the Orkneys, with such compelling descriptions that I had to google image search the area and even went on AirBnB to see how much it would cost to rent something for a month or so next spring. It turns out, if you were wondering, that you can get a fully furnished castle there for just shy of $36,000 per month. Cottages are a bit more economical.

Listen

Even if you read Gemma in paper form, do yourself a favor and check out the lovely audiobook read by Davina Porter. She does a superb job of rendering a wide variety of Scottish accents and you will love it.

incorrigiblesIf you’ve got the kids along, you could try listening to the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, which, apart from being UTTERLY TERRIFIC in nearly every way, also includes references to a poem titled Wanderlust–the favorite of the governess, who has never traveled anywhere in real life. Except for London, which is no small potatoes. And the series is set in 19th century England, so that’s always a win.

The audio for the series is really great, and it’s well worth however long the wait list is at your library.

paleo slow cookerCook

I stumbled upon this great crockpot cookbook (I know, groan, groan, crockpot cooking) that happens to include the sort of recipes I like to make anyway. Normally if I need to use the crockpot I just put in whatever recipe I would have made on the stove top and hope for the best. But The Paleo Slow Cooker by Arsy Vartanian breaks it all down specifically for the crockpot. I marked, and have tried, several Armenian, Indian, and Persian food recipes from this cookbook. They aren’t quite like stove cooking, but are close and decent for busy weeknights or weekend evenings when you’re going to be out all day.

Eat

On that note, if you can’t afford to take the family out for international cuisine but do get Vartanian’s book, I recommend Curry Beef, Lamb and Apricot Stew, Lamb Tagine, and Ginger Chicken. All excellent.

What do you do when you’re seized by the desire to travel to parts unknown?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for clicking through to Amazon from A Spirited Mind.

The Yes Effect

yes effectI’ve looked forward to reading The Yes Effect for several years now, because the co-author, Darcy Wiley, is a real life friend of mine. Hearing about powerful interviews with missionaries from around the world, the writing process, and how the book took shape made me eager to read the final product.

And I was not disappointed. The idea for the book came from Luis Bush’s work in the 10/40 movement, a missions strategy that sought to bring the Gospel to the most unreached people groups. The Yes Effect tells the story of Bush’s lifetime of missions work, but also pulls in the stories of many other missionaries who have served around the world, from a wide variety of backgrounds. Structured around particular challenges to live and pray in a way that makes us open to doing God’s work wherever we’re called, the chapters are not only a fascinating look at modern missions history, but also a call for all of us–missionaries or not–to look for where God is working and make sure we are saying yes to the work He has for us to do.

As I mentioned in a newsletter earlier this month, one thing I really liked about this book was the way Darcy and Luis highlighted the ordinary sides of the missionaries, many of whose stories are amazing and totally outside the experience of someone living in comfortable suburbia. While not being prescriptive–how could it be, since predicting what the Holy Spirit is about to do would be foolhardy–The Yes Effect is a thoughtful invitation to pray a bit differently, think about the world a bit differently, and look for opportunities in a different way than we may be used to doing.

The Yes Effect is thought-provoking, compelling, and full of interesting stories of modern missions. I’d recommend it for believers as inspiring regardless of your current level of missions focus.

 

Disclosure: The author of this book is a friend, and I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Book links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.

The Madwoman Upstairs

madwoman-upstairsIt has been ages since I’ve read something just for myself, so last weekend I took a pause in my pre-reading for school and reveled in TWO entire books for myself. It was marvelously restorative.

One was The Madwoman Upstairs – a wildly clever, tremendously funny, well-plotted homage to the Bronte family, Oxford, and competing modes of literary criticism. I’ve put aside several Bronte spin-offs this year (a book club I’m in is doing Jane Eyre next month) and so I didn’t have high hopes for Lowell’s take, but I found it delightful.

The book is a bit of a mystery story, borrowing bits of structure from Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey, and a bit of a commentary on how to read a book. This is all bound up in a well-written story with characters that are interesting without being too slavish to Bronte casts. It was beautifully done, and is worth a read just to admire how Lowell pulled it off.

As a lifelong fan of Jane Eyre (I read it for the first time in second grade!), a total Anglophile, and a bookworm–to say nothing of being a person in desperate need of a stress-relieving read–I deeply enjoyed The Madwoman Upstairs and highly recommend it.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.