I have mixed feelings about this book. I picked it up from a display case at the library on a whim. One of my favorite ways to put off actually writin...moreI have mixed feelings about this book. I picked it up from a display case at the library on a whim. One of my favorite ways to put off actually writing myself is through the guise of 'improving' it by reading about it, so this book was a natural choice for me.
I expected this book to be mostly a how-to book about writing, with a few charming or harrowing stories from Nestor's experience. It turns out to be a strange hybrid, 70% memoir about how Nestor became the writer she is today, 27% meditation on the act of writing itself, and 3% writing exercises, doled out in one-to-two pages of writing prompts at the end of each chapter based on the life-events revealed therein.
This hybrid-style is not intrinsically good or bad, just as this book is not good or bad, but middle-of-the-road, a perfect 2.5 book. However, I do think it could have been executed more effectively. I've broken down the reasons for this below:
pros: Nestor is very encouraging of the fledgling writer. I consider her more a cheerleader than master of the written word. A few of the writing exercises were useful, I might even try one or two. The best by far was the '26-minute memoir,' the idea for which Nestor says came to her in a dream.
I liked some of the stories she told very much, especially the ones dealing with her eccentric grandmother, Buddhist great-aunt, and her loving step-father. These characters were vivid and strong, and are really the only reason I read the whole book.
Which leads us to...
The cons: Except for the aforementioned endearing stories, which were in the minority, the whole book centered on how for most of her life, Nestor severely doubted her ability to write, and didn't think she was deserving of doing/studying it, and was unable to make herself actually sit down and write. It got old pretty quick. I found myself wanting to shake her and yell, "WRITE, already!"
Nestor claims that her epiphany came when she realized that she needed to start being as honest as possible in her writing, but then she glossed over several characters and admissions that seemed pretty pivotal. For instance, she claims to have written an entire (unpublished) manuscript on how much she doesn't like children or being a mother, even though she has two kids. Aside from the struggle of writing this book and never seeing it published, she doesn't go into further detail about that, at all. To include even a paragraph or two about how she reconciled (or didn't) having kids with hating having kids, which I think would have made it a more engaging read.
She also glosses over her mother, who was always too interested in living her own life than being a mother. It seems that this is the source of her 'Am I good enough?' dilemma, but we never see the scenes and acts of disinterest that would make her mother come alive like the other characters she describes.
Nestor's writing ability is average. I found myself wondering how she was able to get a gig as a writing instructor. I know it was just at a community college, but she didn't have a degree in writing, and hadn't been published yet. How does that happen?
Read it if you have the time. If you don't, don't feel too bad about it. (less)