January allowed me five books, probably because I was off for a few days and the semester has only just begun. I appreciated the variety- short stories, letters, a graphic novel, contemporary fiction, and a classic.
Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker
This is a collection of letters told to various men in Parker's life, from her grandfather, to abusive significant others, to cab drivers. The names are never divulged, but she provides enough context to where the reader is able to determine time periods, emotional states, and where she is at in her career. It's an interesting concept and there's obviously a great deal of catharsis in letter writing.
Verdict: I enjoyed this book, for the most part. It was an easy book to read in spurts, and like I just said, I appreciated the concept. Supposedly she wrote this herself, which means she has some chops (although slightly overdone ones at times). I do have to admit to thinking the theme, only writing to men who have had meaning, bothers me a little bit, but that's probably just me being defensive.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
This is the story of a married couple that views their decades-long relationship form both Lotto and Mathilde's perspectives. We see them grow, stumble, keep secrets, and suffer over and over again. The reader is sucked into the world of theater and given a unique glimpse at the torturous mind of a creative- and the woman standing his shadows.
Verdict: I hate using the word "epic" to describe things, but this was an epic work of literary fiction. The writing was perfect, the characters deep and complex, the plot riveting. It was long, as all epics are, but totally worth it in the end.
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
I saw this collection of short stories pop up here and there and thought it would be a nice companion piece to The Awakening. The stories are centered around women who are housewives, to varying degrees. There's a story that is comprised of an email exchange between two apartment neighbors at war over how to decorate the shared hallway. There's the story of a struggling writer who wants to win a reality show. Another novelist who's tasked with writing a book sponsored by Tampax (come to think of it, I think three of the stories are centered around stay-at-home-writers).
Verdict: This was definitely the weakest of the bunch this month; the stories were really inconsistent. There were a few that were really witty and satirical, but some that drug on (like the reality show one, which was also way too long). It's not a bad book by any means, but it seemed a bit sloppy.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
I think this is the fourth time I've read this book, but the first time as a mom (I may write about this perspective later). For those unfamiliar, it's about Edna, a woman at the turn of the century who decides she's not content being only someone's wife and mother. She goes through a premature midlife crisis and becomes increasingly flirtatious and eventually moves out of the family home. Scandalous.
Verdict: I love this book, and I especially love teaching it. The students are always pretty divided in how they view the issues and we have some interesting discussions on feminism, identity, and whether Edna is a feminist or entitled brat.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
I finally read a graphic novel! I'm pretty sure most are familiar with the story, but it's Spiegelman's retelling of his father's time leading up to, and after, Auschwitz. The narrative flips back and forth between the past and the author's present, which allows the reader to see the impact being a Jewish prisoner had on Vladek, as well as his family.
Verdict: I don't tend to gravitate towards WWII history, but this was a really, really great story. I went in with some trepidation, not sure if I could connect to the animals as characters (I was thinking Animal Farm prior to reading... I was amused but detached) or the black and white illustrations (again, I read maybe one graphic novel a year, so I'm still finding a comfort level in this style of reading). I will definitely be recommending this to my students.