What I Read in March 2023

March was long. And also it was here and gone in a matter of what seems like hours. What the hell. Anyway, springtime is officially here–something I, for one, was starting to wonder about. This winter felt like the longest winter of all time. Or maybe I say that every year. Who knows. All I know is–so many vegetables are coming my way these days and I’m thrilled for it.

Anyway, here’s what I read in March. As usual, any purchase made through these links helps to support our bookstore, Twice Told Tales in McPherson, Kansas.

Ghost Club by Kate Winkler Dawson
Download the audiobook here.

This was a fun, short, audiobook-only-available listen. So I’m not sure it even counts as a book? Who knows. Only about 4 hours long. I love Kate Winkler Dawson’s historic true crime podcasts. So when I had the opportunity to give this one a listen, of course I jumped on it.

The Ghost Club tells this history of, you guessed it, The Ghost Club–a collection of spiritualists in the early 1900’s. The Ghost Club membership roll boasts all sorts of folks you’ve definitely heard of; people like Arthur Conan Doyle and William Butler Yeats. I thought it was interesting to learn of the ways that over the years, skeptics and believers alike were welcomed into the group. I can’t imagine that happening these days but I love to see it.

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

Order it in hardcover here. (Or stop into our store and grab a copy!)
Download the audiobook here.

I really, really enjoyed this book! I found it to be lighthearted and at some parts even quite funny despite the fact that it centers around themes that can find themselves feeling very heavy and dull at times. Like, would this book appeal to you if I told you that it was a sociological exploration of wealth, class, family loyalty, and whiteness? I mean, maybe it would. I don’t know what you like. What a testament to Jenny Jackson’s abilities as a writer! I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

The story itself centers around three women in the very well-to-do Stockton family living in Brooklyn. I liked the way that each chapter took us to the perspective of a different sister and we get to know a little bit more about the roles they play in their family, how they actually feel about that role, and what they’re keeping from the rest of the family. My only complaint is that I wished it was longer!

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Order on hardcover or paperback here (we have paperback copies at the store currently).
Download the audiobook here.

After years of people telling me, weekly, that I just had to read The Four Winds, I finally dug in. I was hesitant to dive in for two reasons:
1. If you tell me what to do, there’s an 80% chance I absolutely will not do it. That’s just who I am. Ask my BFF Jamie about all the incredible television shows she’s recommended to me. And I love her. And I know she has amazing taste! I should jump on ANYTHING she recommends to me. But the second you give me an assignment, my brain files that shit away like it’s homework.
2. My Grandma Doris lived through The Dust Bowl and it traumatized her so severely. She’d never discuss it. The most she ever told me was that they had to hang wet sheets in the windows to keep the dust from blowing into the house. But I knew it was bad for her and the thought of reading about it–I don’t know. It just felt really tender to me.

But I picked it up, partly because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. But a little bit of me was ready to feel a little bit closer to Grandma. Her birthday was this month and she’d just been on my mind. While I know this wasn’t her story–it was the story of many of her friends and neighbors and I know for a fact there was plenty that she could have related to. Grandma was born in 1920 and Loreda (a primary character) was born in 1921, so it was quite easy to picture my ancestors as they were carrying out their lives during the storms.

This book is a hard read. It’s sad after sad after sad after sad. And while it ends on a hopeful note, I know that the book was written this way for a reason–it’s because that’s what life was like on the Great Plains at that time. Just when you think you’re due for some relief, another even worse storm comes for you. If you like a book because it makes you feel, this is a book for you. I just definitely recommend having a pallet cleanser on deck. Which is why the next book I finished was…

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Order the hardcover or paperback copy here.
Download the audiobook version here.

I can not overstate this–if you’re an audiobook listener, you’re gonna want to get this one on audiobook. Blair Brown does an incredible job of reading this story. I have narrators I like a lot but I’ve never felt so in-the-moment as I was listening to Blair Brown read.

Now, I’m going to keep a lot of my thoughts about this book to myself since we have our book club meeting about it tomorrow but I can tell you a little bit. This book was so gosh darn glamorous! I thought it was just such a delight and I was hooked from the very beginning.

It’s basically Vivian telling us her whole life story. The way she grew up with stuffy, stodgy, rich WASPy parents and the way she found her truest self in the bohemian NYC theater world of the 1940’s. There is a pretty hefty section where we’re just following Vivian along on her sexual awakening and some parts were helpful to move along the story or very funny but after a while I was like “We get it Viv.” But I loved the beautiful character development–sometimes our worst life-stories help to shape us into the people we want to be the very most.

A Likely Story by Leigh McMullan Abramson

Order the hardcover version here (we also have a couple at the shop).
Download the audiobook here.

A Likely Story takes place in the New York literary scene and Isabell Manning–the daughter of an iconic, wildly famous author, is working hard to get her first novel published and it’s not coming to her as easily as she–or anyone else, would have imagined.

The plot itself is quite simple–which just makes space for the incredible character development! That is where Leigh McMullan Abramson really shines with book.

Anyone who’s keeping track has probably noticed that my most favorite books are about family dynamics and that’s definitely what drew me to A Likely Story. The characters–not all of them lovable, feel so real. Because I felt like I knew these characters, I was rooting for each of them. And, look, I hate it when I don’t love a character. So… I guess I love her but she just makes some unlikable choices. But don’t we all? It’s easy to give her some grace.

I finished this book three days ago and I still keep thinking about it. Initially, I marked this book at 3.5 stars because I finished it and felt like “It was good but it wasn’t really thrilling or anything.” But since I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I went back and changed it to 4.5 stars. There’s just so much to chew on. I feel like these people are my friends that I wish I could check in on.

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