The Signature of All Things

the-signature-of-all-thingsIt’s been a long time since I read  a novel with as deeply developed a character as Alma Whittaker in Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. It is easy to feel that Alma is as real — if not more so — than some of the real-life characters  in the novel. Then again, The Signature of All Things is all Alma’s story, from birth to the brink of her death in old age, so it is important that she be interesting enough to carry us through the 500+ pages.

Alma’s life spans the nineteenth century. She is born into a wealthy, immigrant Pennsylvanian family.  Her English father is an uneducated but highly resourceful merchant of medicinal plants. Her mother is a member of a  family of famous Dutch botanists. Alma and her adopted sister Prudence are given spectacular classical educations and encouraged to precociousness. But whereas Prudence is beautiful and draws male attention, Alma, we are constantly reminded, is not. No suitors come calling for her, particularly the one man she hopes will return her affection but never does. Gilbert makes such a point of letting us know how ugly and unattractive Alma is that it made me quite sad for her. Continue reading

Double Happy New Year!

I celebrated the change of the new year twice–lucky me! Once in Tokyo, and then once somewhere over the Pacific. Japan is 17 hours ahead, so we left at 5pm on New Year’s day Tokyo, but arrived at 9am on New Year’s day in the US. It feels a luxuriously long–and sleepy–start to 2016. Continue reading

Time Reading Program: Cross Creek


Cover art front and back by Jim Jonson. Jonson was a noted illustrator of mostly athletes in action. His work was published in Sports Illustrated, Time Life Books, Ski, and others.

It was difficult to decide which one, of my current 57 Time Reading Program Special Edition books, to start reading first. Somehow my finger landed on Cross Creek by Marjoire Kinnan Rawlings, and I gently pried the cover open about 30 degrees (the covers are so stiff that it is not possible to fully open the book without breaking them off) and peered in.

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The Golem and the Jinni

the golem and the jinni

I acquired this book right after I finished Alif the Unseen, my first post on this blog. I wanted to jump in, but was a bit worried from the title that the book would have assertive religious or political agendas, or both. It doesn’t and am so glad I waited no longer.

This 800-page page turner is not fancy literary fiction, but one of those great, old-fashioned stories you can disappear into for a few days. I closed the book most impressed by its plotting. The story moved (in my mind) like a spiral. We returned to characters or back story as if moving around and up a strand of DNA,  until it all came together in the end. Each little piece of the story, each character, was important and placed in just the right spot to move it to resolution.

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Flight Behavior (and the Goldfinch Post Mortem)

flight-behavior“A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture.”  — Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver is a reader’s writer. Even when a particular book is not one of my all-time favorites, like this one,  I’m always “with”  Kingsolver and enjoy her sentences, the rhythm of the unfolding story, the observations she makes of her character’s inner worlds (especially her women), and the way she incorporates the natural world/current events. There is typically something relatable about Kingsolver’s characters. I suspect that many that many middle age, American women read her for that very quality.

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