I only finished three books in February, but all three were pretty great reads:
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I first heard of this book on the “What Should I Read Next” podcast as a recommendation on multiple occasions (I will definitely be doing a future post about this podcast- it has revolutionized my identity as a reader over the past six months). After hearing about the book on that podcast, and seeing it on almost every year-end best-of list (including one of Goodreads’ Best Book of the Year), I decided to purchase it as a gift to Dan for Christmas. However, before he could read it, my book club selected it as its February pick (sorry honey…).
The book is about a woman named Cora and her attempts to escape slavery in Georgia. Her journey takes her all over the country- from South Carolina to Tennessee to Indiana. She makes friends and enemies along the way and her story is heart-wrenching and, traumatically, largely based on actual events and behaviors that occurred in our nation’s history. There were several times when I thought, “Oh my gosh, I hope this doesn’t happen next! There’s no way that could happen after everything Cora has been through…” And then that thing happened. Devastating.
For me the book lived up to the hype and then some. There were so many great moments when I stopped reading to admire the writing, just thinking to myself “whoa… that was great.” I thought the use of a literal railroad as a magical realism device to be able to more broadly portray life in different areas of the country during slavery was so creative and I appreciated the thorough and wonderful storytelling. I also think it felt good to read something critical of America right now given the current state of our country. The book was oddly hopeful for me in a way? I guess I’m hoping that 150 years from now, someone will be reading a book about 2016 & thinking “wow I’m glad we’ve come so far since then. What were people thinking?”
“And America, too is a delusion, the grandest one of all. The white race believes- believes with all its heart- that it is their right to take the land. To kill Indians. Make war. Enslave their brothers. This nation shouldn’t exist if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft, and cruelty. Yet here we are.”
2. Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Like The Underground Railroad, I first heard of this book on the “What Should I Read Next” podcast. A few months later, it popped up on my audiobook suggestions through the Milwaukee County Library system when I was searching for a <9 hour audiobook to listen to with Dan on our drive “Up North” to his family’s lake house in Crandon, Wisconsin. This was a fun new tradition we started this past summer. For each trip, we switch off who gets to pick the audiobook. It’s a great way to up both of our book counts for the year, and it’s fun to read/discuss a book together! I think we often read books with friends and discuss, but have you done it with your partner? Give it a try if you haven’t!
Anyway- this was not the book we listened to on the drive, but I still got it for myself. It was a pretty quick listen, and I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoyed either Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides or The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Like those two books, this is a multigenerational family epic where the family’s heritage and culture play a prominent role. In this case, the book tells the tale of three generations of women- the grandmother Sabitri, mother Bela, and granddaughter Tara- and explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, and the different kinds of love that bind us across generations.
The audiobook was wonderful! The voice actors (readers? performers?) were fantastic and really added to the story. Like Underground Railroad before it, there were some amazing storytelling moments and well written passages that took my breath away. My favorite parts were about Sabitri and her life in India and later when her granddaughter Tara takes odd jobs as a short term caregiver for elderly people. In the end though, I felt that there were too many things/tropes packed into the middle of the book. I could have done without a few of the eye roll inducing moments that would have been avoided had the story been kept more simple. Overall it was very enjoyable though and like I said the audio is FANTASTIC!
“I don’t put much stock in remembering things. Being able to forget is a superior skill.”
3. Warrior Goddess Training by Heatherash Amara
I discovered this book through my yoga studio- YogaLoft Milwaukee. I had struggled to find a yoga studio I liked for a few months last fall, and when I finally found YogaLoft in December, I knew instantly that the small class sizes and non-competitive, community vibe were just what I was looking for. Also the tiger balm shoulder massages at the end of class. Namaste. For real.
After attending class for a few months, I was looking for a way to get more involved and lo and behold a flyer advertising a book club for yogis popped up. This was perfect! Self help/spiritual books are usually not my thing, but I was willing to give it a try. And I’m so glad I did. Having started a new job in September and going through some health issues, I have been in a funk for awhile now. Low confidence, focus, you know the drill. This is a perfect example of a book coming into a person’s life at the exact right time. I recommend this book to any woman who could use a little spiritual inspiration or just inspiration in general! I know men can and have read this as well, and enjoyed it very much, but it’s just more geared towards women…
In a nutshell, the book is about realigning how you approach obstacles in your life as well as being true and kind to your authentic self. These are messages even the most confident woman needs to hear every once in awhile.
Since finishing the book, I have already gone back to memorable quotes I highlighted to set the tone for my day, or for a needed reminder or pick me up. I wrote three pages of quotes in my reading journal, I just loved this so much. I plan to read this again and delve deeper into the recommended exercises and also take advantage of the list of additional/further reading provided at the back of the book. It’s going to be a struggle to pick just one passage for the purpose of this post but I’ll do my best…
“We are saying yes to the power of fierce love, compassion, constant authenticity, and vulnerability. These are the attributes of our warrior focus and our goddess joy.”
And that’s all for the month! I’ve got THREE books in progress right now and will probably finish all of them within the week. Here’s to a much more productive bookful March! But for now…
“Off to the cupboard with you now, Chip. It’s past your bedtime. Goodnight, love…”