Amanda's Reviews > The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal

The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
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May 28, 08

bookshelves: written-by-goodreaders, 2008, better-than-chick-lit, it-s-kinda-true
Recommended to Amanda by: Chicks on Lit book club pick for May!
Read in May, 2008

At the end of chapter 13:

So far this book is an inspiration of living life to its fullest. Not because this teenager is necessarily more wonderful than any other human being whose footsteps have fallen on this earth; but because you can read it and look at it from afar, and touch its edges of life lived; as if it's in a snow globe or behind a fog of time. You read and you know that there is a 90 year old woman sitting beside you, fingers outstretched, touching the same edge as you are, stirring her own past inside herself. She says she lives more fully and passionately at 90 because of this reflection of self; of the past, the present, and the future swimming together, holding hands, hearts beating in unison. 90 year old Florence will tell you that there is no separate Me Yesterday, Me Today, Me Tomorrow. There is only ME.



The comments I wrote in the Chicks on Lit book club discussion after finishing the book in its entirety:


As I come away from the book with some time to reflect, I find I have some overwhelming thoughts...

Everything we read affects us differently depending on where we are in our lives. I am in a transition. Mourning the loss of a future I'll never have, swimming upstream through the nagging desire to make my future my own, and finally, being immobilized by the realization that decisions are terribly difficult with no black or white answers. Florence, of course, affected me becuase she was in a transition, too (what teenager isn't). I don't think she would have married if she weren't pressured to do so, though I believe that she did love Nat. (Oh, what is love anyway? Now that's a topic for another thread...) Flo wouldn't have done a damn thing to change her life if it weren't by force--the force of her parents, the force of the war, the force of simple adulthood. And as she looked back, a 90 year old woman reflecting upon her youth, she oozed a sense of loss with her words. She said (I'm paraphrasing), "Yes I had a good life, but never the life I'd imagined." At the end, I found myself questioning whether it's ok to live a life never imagined. Can we feel satisfied, looking back from 90 years old, if our lives veered left, right, over, under? I think not. If we want satisfaction, we must embrace the unexpected, lay aside all plans, and swing as freely on our tethers as the wind allows--only then may our aged selves sink into peace.

I look to Lily Koppel as well. The image of her, standing in a pink flapper dress, the fusion of teenage Flo, crone Flo, and Lily herself beating as one heart inside one body. Lily is us. She is all of us. A woman affected by an anonymous life scribbled on diary pages. A woman in the midst of her own soul's path to peace. Is she sitting at her desk, as I am, staring up at ceiling tiles? Are you? And you and you? Are we women, as one, marching towards our future in the shadow of the adult Florence, aching to make our lives our own? I hope so. I hope we are moving forward, by inch and mile, hand in hand together, ready to take what comes. I hope for myself, that the day when I come into my crone self, I can look back and say, "Yes I had a good life, but never the life I'd imagined... And I loved every breath!"
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by Liz (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liz This looks pretty good. Let me know how it is and I might have to borrow it from you!


Amanda Sure thing babycakes! What were you doing awake 4 hours and 42 minutes ago???


Rikita Rey Amanda, I totally agree with your review!


Amanda Awesome, Rikita!!! Life is one crazy ride isn't it??? :)


message 5: by Liz (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liz " If we want satisfaction, we must embrace the unexpected, lay aside all plans, and swing as freely on our tethers as the wind allows--only then may our aged selves sink into peace."

*&^%. I never knew you were so eloquent! That's fabulous. Might have to be my new email sig quote!


Amanda Liz. Dahling, I might be giving you the bird, but I am as complex and eloquent as they come! Hee hee hee!!! I'm sitting here giggling in my cubicle--can you envision it? Anyway, thank you for the compliment. I do have my moments when sincerity makes language spill forth. Blah. Anyway, I would be honored if you used that as your email sig! :)


Rikita, this is the only book on your shelves. Wow!


message 7: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Amanda, my God you have a way with words! Beautiful! Simply well put and beautiful!


Wendy Amanda, Liz and Rikita: you all rock! I loved this book.


Amanda Thanks Jo and Wendy. Yep, I'm very glad I read this book. Made me think about myself and my choices. I'd like to hope I'll be a little less uptight now. :) I need to get on the ball and pick up the next Chicks on Lit group read.


Jessica Very powerful review!


Amanda Wowie! Thanks Jessica!!! Did you read the book, too?


Jessica No, but i've added it to my ever-growing "to-read" list. I was steered here to see your review by Elizabeth. :) Looks like a good book.


Amanda Oh, so you're the Jessica I hear so much about all the time!!! Do I get to meet you soon??? :)

What's up with my triple punctuation???


Jessica I hope we get to meet soon! Hmmm, I'll just assume that you're being very enthusiastic with your puncuation!


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Amanda, I just stumbled across your review and I loved it. Well done. I'm going to read this one now, too.


Amanda Yes, read it. You will like it. And it's QUICK! :)


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

What you said was brilliant and resonated with me. I ask myself this question all the time:

"At the end, I found myself questioning whether it's ok to live a life never imagined. Can we feel satisfied, looking back from 90 years old, if our lives veered left, right, over, under? I think not. If we want satisfaction, we must embrace the unexpected, lay aside all plans, and swing as freely on our tethers as the wind allows--only then may our aged selves sink into peace."

You rock, Amanda. Don't forget it.



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