retro reading

 

 

atwoody

We’ve been neglecting our reviews. Oh, we’ve written them, just haven’t shared, and that is just sad. So, the girls are returning to reviews with a retro read of Margaret Atwood. Here’s the tease:

To read The Edible Woman is to be transported back in time. Fourty-plus years ago “girls” had entered the workforce to stay. They wore binding girdles, deferred to the men in the company, and were expected to resign when they became engaged and left maindenhood behind. Still, they were there, earning their way.

read more here

Six Word Story No. 14

His ardor was genuine but futile.

goof

Girls and Other Mysteries

2014-07-27-girls_cover-thumb

::REVIEW::

That you can never truly know another person is the central truth of Rufi Thorpe’s debut novel, The Girls of Corona Del Mar, but the book is so much more than that. It is also a coming of age saga, one where the narrative begins with two golden-skinned teens in sun-drenched Corona Del Mar, and it ends years later and universes away.

 At the onset, best friends Mia and Lorrie Ann share lives as intertwined as any pair of young girls. So close are they, that they can’t see the stark difference between them as anything but symbiotic. Mia’s divorcee mom scrapes by in a second-rate apartment to make ends meet. Even after she remarries and Mia’s brothers come along, they remain planted in the same spot, as if by gravity. Lorrie Ann’s parents conversely, a divinely bohemian couple, sink roots steadfastly in love and music. To Mia, Lorrie Ann’s family represents the happy ideal of an intact family.

It turns out that Mia gets pregnant in high school, and naturally, it is to Lorrie Ann that she makes her confession. Seemingly chaste Lorrie Ann, the saint to Mia’s sinner, helps her through the subsequent abortion. At the end of high school, Mia is the one who goes to Yale to pursue a degree in the classics, while Lorrie Ann becomes pregnant herself, and chooses to give up on dreams of college to have the baby.

But Lorrie Ann’s baby is born horribly deformed and from then on, she can’t seem to catch a break. She marries her baby daddy, who when his restaurant job can’t cover the requirements of his special needs family, enlists in the army. Then he is deployed to Iraq and is killed. Poor and struggling, Lorrie Ann eventually loses custody of her son.

Alternately, Mia becomes a scholar. Fifteen years later, their two lives intersect in Istanbul, where Mia and her fiancé, Franklin, are transcribing ancient narratives about the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Lorrie Ann calls Mia out of the blue and Mia goes to the marketplace to meet her, only to find her old friend traveling with a clutch of jet-setters, and addicted to heroin.

The reunion is predictably strained. Mia is just beginning to realize that she may be pregnant. She confesses as much to Lorrie Ann, who promises to keep the secret until Mia comes to terms with which path she will ultimately choose. Mia is afraid to tell Franklin, who is the best thing that’s ever happened to her. She is afraid that he won’t be ready to be, much less want to be, a father. But Lorrie Ann betrays her confidence and reveals all. One could say that as her friend, Lorrie Ann does what she feels is in Mia’s best interest. She can clearly see how much Franklin loves Mia. One could also say that as friends go, it isn’t Lorrie Ann’s secret to reveal to the fiancé of a friend she hadn’t seen in a dozen years.

Friendship. Betrayal. The nature of love, and the powerful lure of ancient mythology. Thorpe’s novel is a deep and layered journey, and for anyone who has ever deeply loved a bestie, it is well worth the exploration.

–Cynthia Gregory

Watch for my upcoming book: An Inspired Journal; the Art and Soul of Creative Nonfiction. Available soon on Green Tara Press at Amazon.com

tasty fiction here

kitchens

KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST

::REVIEW::

What a delicious read in J. Ryan Stradal’s debut novel: Kitchens of the Great Midwest.  His treatment of the subject of haute (and low) cuisine is both respectful and poetic, as is his attention to the detail of place. The Midwest has never appeared so endearing, nor possibly as strange.

The star of the story, Eva Thorvald, is born in the late 1980s to Lars Thorvald and Cynthia Hargreaves, the two most unlikely candidates for happy marriage that ever was. But when Cynthia gets knocked up, marry they do, and vigorous ten pound baby Eva follows. 

“Cynthia was still twenty-five, and bounced back to her skinny frame with color in her cheeks and bigger boobs, while Lars just grew balder and fatter and slower. He had learned, before she was pregnant, that he had to hold her hand or touch her in some way while they walked places together, so that other men knew they were a couple. Now she was the mother of his daughter, he was even more wary, snarling at passing dudes with confident Tom Selleck mustaches and cool Bon Jovi hair.”

Lars is a foodie through and through, and Cynthia has a knack for food and wine pairings beyond reason. But gravely oppressed by motherhood from the start, Cynthia ditches husband and child as soon as reasonably possible, running off to California to learn the wine trade.

Lars devotes his life to his darling daughter, whose taste buds he teases with the finest ingredients her pediatrician will permit. He reads Beard on Bread to her. He takes her on excursions through Farmer’s Markets, searching for priceless potatoes and redolent rhubarb.

Lucky for her, Eva is born with a “once in a generation palate.” But is this because of her natural father? It’s hard to say. Not long after Cynthia goes MIA, Lars dies suddenly, leaving baby Eva to be raised by her Uncle Jarl and Aunt Fiona, who while loving her completely, don’t know a mung bean from mozzarella.

Part of the pleasure of this novel derives from Stradal’s juicy narrative. From the start, we know that Eva is a survivor and that she is destined for great things. We love how she loves her adopted parents, how she embraces strays of all kinds, and how even as a kid, she demonstrates great depths of compassion.

“[Jarl] suddenly looked sad and bewildered, like an elephant that had been fired from the circus and was wandering down the side of the highway with nowhere to go. The thought occurred to Eva that if her dad confronted those boys face-to-face, they would make fun of her weak, fat, kindhearted father as brutally as they made fun of her, and she needed to protect her dad from that; his ego was already so fragile.”

It’s not giving anything away to reveal that Eva becomes a celebrated, if mysterious and deeply private, chef. Her love for good food is not for show or for fame; it is real as rice and sweet as whipped marshmallow. In the end, her love of food is about what all great food is about: celebration and gratitude and sharing your bounty with those you love.

c. gregory

killer weekend

IN A DARK, DARK WOOD

::REVIEW::

dark dark

Ruth Ware’s debut novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, possesses all the best elements of a thriller: a remote country estate, a bachelorette party, and a group of frenemies that really, really should have scrubbed their email lists and left each other well enough alone after those terrible school days. But then, where’s the pleasure in that?

The story is narrated by Nora, an author who specializes in crime thrillers. Back in school, she was called Lee, short for Leonora. Only one person ever called her Leo, and it was her first love, James.  But then he broke up with her. . .via text. . .and she moved on. Ten years later, Nora is mostly okay, writing novels and living a fine, urban single life.

Then one day out of the blue, she receives an invitation to an old friend’s wedding. Surprised, she feels a little sorry for Clare, thinking that maybe she has no other girls to invite, having to dredge back ten years for her bachelorette do. Nora is undecided about whether or not to attend the hen, but her invite is followed quickly by an email from Nina, who is also wary of Clare’s motives. “If you go, I will,” she says. Nora agrees and they somehow wind up traveling to the remote English countryside together.

Nina hates the country and misses her girlfriend, and Nora is straightway filled with dread by their accommodations: a modern glass box dropped unceremoniously in a meadow at the edge of a dark and menacing wood. The house belongs to Flo’s aunt and feels to Nora like a dangerous cage, though it is only a country estate, complete with a shotgun hung over the living room fireplace.

Miles from anywhere, cell reception is sketchy and the revelers are coolly irritable. When Clare announces to Nora that the reason she was invited to the hen and not the wedding is because the groom-to-be is the infamous James, the weekend really takes a turn. It doesn’t help that Flo’s hen party games involve embarrassing details about the bride and groom, shaming and humiliating Nora repeatedly. And then it snows. And then the land lines go out and the hen fete devolves into a churlish clutch of drunken, paranoid hostages. Fun!

When the phones go down, Melanie decides to bail, a welcome excuse to return home to her infant son. Flo is alternately weepy and aggressive toward anyone who isn’t into the spirit of the weekend. Tom would rather be home with his husband but stays on, drinking gin and taking well-aimed shots at Nina and Nora. Clare plays referee, keeping anyone from coming to actual blows.

After two days of slowly escalating hell, Nora wakes up in a hospital confused, horribly bruised, and under police watch. She is suspected of murder, but she can’t remember what happened. The harder she tries to recall, the more the truth evades her.

Novelist Ware has created a deft and ominous page turner in this fabulous thriller, replete with plot twists, red herrings, and a truly scary villain. If you’re still looking for provocative poolside reading to finish the summer, this novel should do nicely.

coach up!

detour

I gave a talk about executive coaching  this week to a group of nonprofit professionals and it was crazy cool! Nonprofit execs work too many hours with too few resources, and practically no strategic support. I want to change that. This means helping nonprofit leaders be more successful — and more fulfilled. Yum!

Important note: 1) transformative change is AMAZING, and, 2) success comes with a price. Stepping into your power can be a radical act, but it can also be a thrill-ride, so if you sign on with a coach, buckle up, baby! On the other hand, if you’re sort of meh about becoming a shinier, brighter version of you, do not, under any circumstances, engage a coach. You won’t like it, not one bit.

ONE SIZE FITS ALL

WARNING! Do Not hire a coach, if you are:

  • Unprepared to experience transformational growth
  • Unwilling to invest the time and energy to achieve it
  • Not open to considering new perspectives
  • Unwilling to experience fulfillment
  • Unprepared for honest feedback, as your coach will often goad you

Now get out there and get on with your fabulous life!