Where I got the book: ARC won on the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. To be released on April 3, 2012 (according to the publisher; the author's blWhere I got the book: ARC won on the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. To be released on April 3, 2012 (according to the publisher; the author's blog says April 2).
I had absolutely no knowledge of Stephanie Nielson's blog, nieniedialogues.com, when I requested this book. I'm not, on the whole, a follower of mommy/homemaker bloggers, although I have a couple of friends who are active in this niche. No, what made me interested, I think, was that it was about time to tackle a memoir because it's good for me to read outside my favorite genres.
So I spent the first quarter of the book, frankly, feeling a little bored. It was pretty hard for me to relate to a woman whose ambition since childhood was to be a homemaker and mother of many, for one thing. And then it was all so perfect...a life with few real challenges, perfect husband and healthy kids (look, those of us with disabled kids never think any other mom has it hard, deal with it), large, loving extended family all active in the Mormon church, successful blogging career, yada yada yada. The only thing that kept me reading was the knowledge that the Finger of Doom was hanging over it all. Which makes me a bit of a ghoul, really.
And then the perfect husband and wife were in a small plane crash that killed their friend and left both of them badly burned, and from that point on I was completely hooked (and having slight twinges of guilt about my cavalier way of approaching memoirs of tragedy, which is to treat them a bit like these are not real people really suffering). As you can see by my reading dates, I basically devoured the last three quarters of the book in a day, a rare feat.
What words should I use to describe this book, co-written (ghosted?) by Amy Hackworth? Harrowing? Honest? The writing still got a little saccharine at times when it came to describing how the perfect family copes with disaster, but on the whole I found the narrative straightforward and, yes, compelling and frequently moving. The story focuses on Stephanie Nielson and how family and faith gave her the hope she needed to survive being 80% burned, including extensive facial disfigurement, but there is one telling glimpse of a teenage girl with similar injuries who took the path of depression and hopelessness and died of her burns. I kind of needed to see that, because these perfect-family tropes are always suspect to me; most families just aren't like this and I wonder how such a memoir can help someone in their suffering when they DON'T have such an impressive support system.
Because, after all, unless you're going to read such memoirs merely for ghoulish entertainment, you have to get something from them. And I did, in the end, find Nielson's story uplifting, but this is one of those books I have to stew in my head for a while before I can really understand the value of it.
And the writing, editing and layout were all very good, thank heaven. I had a long run of iffy books on one or the other of these scores, but now I seem to be back in the land of high standards, and I'm grateful for it. ...more
I devoured this one during a transatlantic flight; it's exactly the right kind of book for reading in one orWhere I got the book: purchased on Kindle.
I devoured this one during a transatlantic flight; it's exactly the right kind of book for reading in one or two sittings. The true story of how Susannah Cahalan turned from a feisty young career journalist into a drooling madwoman with occasional lucid moments AND THEN BACK AGAIN. Because some very, very weird things can happen to the brain; I imagine quite a few people spent their lives in asylums when they could have been medicated back to normality if they'd had sufficiently persistent families, brilliant enough doctors and/or better health insurance.
I think the life lessons I drew from this memoir were: Keep Your Apartment Clean and Don't Believe Doctors When They Tell You You're Just Plain Nuts. An excellent read for those of us who are curious about weird mental illnesses, attracted to other people's suffering (oh come on, don't tell me otherwise) or just generally ghoulish. Lots of medical info for those who like that sort of thing or think they may have a similar condition....more
This is the real deal; a woman who lived on what was then the Western frontier telling it how it was. And makingWhere I got the book: free on Kindle.
This is the real deal; a woman who lived on what was then the Western frontier telling it how it was. And making it all sound perfectly normal. Hostile tribes, swarms of mosquitos, dangerous journeys, injury and illness? No prob. Husband away for months? Near starvation? We can hack it.
Reading this short book really made me appreciate the spirit that built America. This was back when Chicago was a collection of huts (she describes, at one point, how they invited all five single men in Chicago to a party) and includes Mrs. Kinzie's transcription of an eyewitness account of the Fort Dearborn massacre.
I don't know whether to be surprised at how much sympathy Mrs. Kinzie has for the Native Americans. She understands precisely why they have reason not to love the white men, and sees that their land and traditions are being stolen away from them. At the same time, she has a paternalistic attitude toward them, seeing them as "our children" and thus evidently not capable of managing by themselves. I suspect this dual attitude was typical of the settlers of the time.
I would heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the early history of America outside its original colonies. Fascinating....more