Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again....(maybe)

It has been so long since I have read - and finished - a fiction book that I truly cannot remember.  I'm not sure why.  It isn't that I haven't been reading - I have just focused on non-fiction books that relate to photography and writing.  And I enjoy reading fiction, I just couldn't seem to find a book that held my attention.  I am sure it was not due to the writing - it was due to my frame of mind.

But I have read two - count them TWO - fiction books since Thursday evening and I am ready to pick up a third later this evening.

The first book I read was purely a spontaneous decision.  I was at the bookstore with a friend and we spotted the book, Keepsake by Kristina Riggle, on one of the display tables.  The blurb on the back of the book sounded intriguing, and I was immediately hooked when I read the first three pages.

Essentially, the book focuses on two sisters - as different as night and day:  one a hoarder, just like her mother, and the other a neat freak bordering on OCD.  The book begins when the hoarder's 7-year-old son breaks his collar bone when an avalanche of collected debris falls on him.  The doctor has his suspicions and sends a social worker to inspect the living conditions.  The mom is given an ultimatum:  either clean up the house and seek help from a psychologist --- or risk losing custody.  She has already lost her teen age son and husband due to the mess, and she cannot bear the thought of losing the only person in the world who loves her unconditionally.

The novel focuses on the massive clean up of the house - and the psychological attachment that hoarders have to objects, and the compulsive aspect of hoarding compared to any other substance abuse like alcohol or cigarettes or drugs.  And the equally devastating effect that OCD can have on the ability to connect to others in a real, physical way.  And the proverbial question of "nature vs nurture" and how the best intentions of those growing up in a dysfunctional household oftentimes find the pull to repeat the cycle greater than the desire to repel it.

I must admit that I am intrigued by this topic - hoarding - although I have never allowed myself to watch the real-life television drama that chronicle examples of this lifestyle.  I think deep down I am too empathetic to their plight.  And while I pride myself on a neat, organized, clean home -- I think I can easily see "where but the grace of God go I."  There is a sadness when I read of those who hoard - or those who house the one odd stray cat that turns into 100. They truly have a compassionate heart - they just don't know how to let go without feeling supreme loss of self.

This is truly one example, I believe, where fiction tell more truth than any non-fiction story could dare. And I am still haunted by the questions that the end of the book causes the reader to ask.

The second book I read this weekend was The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Calyton, and can I say that I am most anxious to read any other work by this author?!  I was ecstatic to hear that her fourth book, The Wednesday Daughters, will making its debut sometime in 2013.

Again, I am drawn in by the blurb on the back of the book - as you would imagine anyone who fancies themselves as a possible writer:
... Then one evening, as they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant, Linda admits that she aspires to write a novel herself, and the Wednesay Sisters Writing Society is born.  the five women slowly, and often reluctantly, start filling journals, sliding pages into typewriters, and sharing their work.  In the process, they explore the changing world around them:  the Vietnam War, the race to the moon and a women's movement that challenges everything they believe about themselves.  At the same time, the friends carry one another through more personal changes - one brought about by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.  With one another's support and encouragement the Wenesday Sisters begin to embrace who they are and what they hope to become, welcoming readers to experience, along with them, the power of dreaming big.

 I was astonished by the author's ability to end each chapter with a captivating line that made me want to read more:

  • She didn't say anything that first afternoon about how lonely her childhood had been.
  • Still, in some way I can't even explain, we set her apart so that what happened to her couldn't possibly happen to us
  • It would all fall out over the next week, leaving him bald as the moon before the Apollo astronauts planted their unflappable flag.  But it would grow back improbably thicker, a portent of things to come
  • "If I don't believe in my work, how can I expect anyone else to?  Besides, it was only sixty-two rejections. The last one was a yes."
  • And despite our promise, despite that reminder, the moment she was out of sight we were talking about it amongst ourselves, unable to grant her even this one small request.
And this is only the first 14 out of 46 chapters!

I long to have a writing group like this one.  One that I feel comfortable enough to share my most inner thoughts and trust enough to help me make them better.  A group of women whom I can share my personal life and not be judged or criticized for what I choose to do.

I was captivated by each of these five women - and there were times when I would audibly sigh or gasp when I learned their deepest secret or when I knew they had realized their deepest fear.

The writing in this book made me want to try harder as a writer - to realize the potential in crafting fiction to illicit real emotion in the reader.  I admire Meg Waite Clayton's talent and I, for one, will be anxiously awaiting the release to the sequel of this book.  I want to hear how the daughters -- my generation - grow up and find themselves in the 21st century.


  1. I liked Keepsake too and would like to know more about the characters. I've had The Wednesday Sisters for longer than I care to admit.

  2. It's great when you pick up two good books back to back. Especially when you take a break from reading fiction.

  3. I've had both of these on my shelves for a while. I'll have to dig them out.

  4. I recently read and enjoyed Keepsake...and a few years ago, I became a fan of Meg Waite Clayton because of The Wednesday Sisters. I'm excited to learn about The Wednesday Daughters...I'm going to search for it now!

  5. Glad to see you back here Molly! I am obviously way behind with my Reader. I enjoyed The Wednesday Sisters also. It was set in the area where I live so I was really intrigued to read it and glad that I did. Hope you continue to find books that will keep you turning the pages.


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