Saturday, January 30, 2021

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer


The three strands of braided sweetgrass symbolize the fusion of mind, body and spirit according to indigenous wisdom. This remarkable volume weaves these threads together in gentle prose that reminds us we have much to learn from plants. Wall Kimmerer, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, threads biographical elements into this iconic collection of essays that discusses a wide range of subjects from indigenous folktales to reciprocity in nature and the role of lichen in ecosystems. There is a warning here too: Windigo, the monster let loose by man’s selfishness, needs to be tamed before the damage is irreparable.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Nothing to see here? Well, think again. For one thing, the adorable twins that Lillian agrees to watch over for a while, combust quite spontaneously. Second, the rudderless Lillian doesn’t quite know what she’s gotten herself into. Fortunately she is a decent human being and there’s nobody quite like kids to sniff out the good from the bad. This is a layered feel-good book about class, realizing your true bearings, and above all, finding allies in the unlikeliest of places. Too often kids in novels come across as overly precocious mini-adults. Wilson’s creations are authentic and huggable, fire and all. 

The Charmed Wife by Olga Grushin

Wait, the princess is warned as she drifts off in search of the zest that will reignite her dull life. You can’t forge straight ahead, you can only turn left or right. But the princess throws caution to the wind and discovers life’s many underexplored paths. Grushin chronicles the many ways real life upsets the traditional stories of “happily ever after” we are fed as children. This brilliant narrative, a mashup of Cinderella and other fairy tales, reveals the struggles that women cope with even as they try to reconcile their everyday lives against a promised paradise that never materializes.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte MConaghy

Looking to rewild the forests of Scotland, Aussie wolf expert Inti Flynn moves to the highlands. She confronts opposition from farmers worried about livestock attacks and things get immensely more complex after a local goes missing. McConaghy delivers another knockout performance on the challenges ahead in our fight against climate change. Moving back and forth, tracing Inti’s own personal baggage and the obligations she works with, this is a breathtaking novel about violence and the feral nature of humanity. At the end of the day, it turns out that the last thing we need to worry about are the wolves. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

“She’s getting the (ugly) face of Vittoria.” Teenager Giovanna overhears this one devastating comment from her father, a harshness that forms the basis for Giovanna’s rebellion. Determined to meet the estranged aunt Vittoria, Giovanna gets to know the extended family and learns how to wield her sexuality as a weapon. Above all, she stumbles under the weight of the realization that her parents are imperfect beings. The adults Giovanna knows are so mediocre and petty that they deserve for their fates to be corralled into one life as the title suggests. A bold coming-of-age story narrated in a riveting voice.