Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wonder if the universe is conspiring to keep you from doing something even though you don’t even believe in stuff like “the universe conspiring” but so much has gone wrong that there’s got to be more than coincidence at play? Was that just me just now? Okay, cool. Moving along.
Before February was even over, our Virtual Book Club had decided that Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale would be our book for March. At that time, I ordered the book from Amazon.com. At the time of this writing—March 28—it still has not arrived.
When I could tell that it was taking a really long time for the book to be delivered, I decided to check it out at the library only to find that it was being read by someone else. We didn’t have a copy at the book store where I work. I downloaded it on audiobook and the file wasn’t working. And so I decided that the good lord simply did not want me to be reading this book at this time and I accepted it. Other friends offered ideas for how I could get my hands on it but, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a really slow reader and knew I wouldn’t be able to get through it without feeling very stressed out. So I just decided I wouldn’t be able to read the book and write a review this month. And can I tell you a secret?
It felt really good. It felt really good to take this one thing off my plate this month.
That being said, I really want to read The Handmaid’s Tale. And hopefully I’ll get to read it when it comes in the mail but Hulu is releasing a series based on this book soon and I’m so stoked to watch it–I know I won’t be able to wait on that.
So since I wasn’t able to read it, all I know about this book I learned from the trailer and from the articles about how a lot of conservative people are angry about it because they think that it’s an attack on Trump’s America. This TV series was in development long before Donald Trump was even nominated to run for the presidency. This book was written in 1985, though, and I feel like if you’re seeing horrifying similarities between the society that exists in a 30 year old dystopian novel and a government that has your full support—maybe think a little bit more about what it is you are standing for. But hey, that’s just me.
For the month of April we’re turning a corner and reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This is one of those classic books that I’ve never read and I’m not sure I even know what it’s about at all. But it is cited as a favorite of so many people—I’m excited to give it a read!
Have you ever read either The Handmaid’s Tale or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? What did you think? I, for one, am glad we’re reading older books. Left to my own devices, I tend towards exclusively contemporary fiction.
Heartburn is a story about heartache. The story takes place over the course of a few weeks starting when Rachel—our main character, is seven months pregnant with her second child. She talks about how the worst part of pregnancy has been the heartburn. We talk about heartburn in the medical sense and the metaphorical sense. In the first few sentences we learn that Rachel’s husband is having an affair and has been for the past six months. The betrayal—it makes her heart burn. The pregnancy gave her actual heartburn.
Released in 1982, this book was based on Nora Ephron’s own life—the main character is even a writer like she is, albeit a “cookbook writer”. She hated it when people called here merely a cookbook writer because to her it was so much more than that—she wrote stories about her real life and happened to include recipes. This book was written in the exact same style, by the way. Stories of her real life punctuated with recipes for the noteworthy foods that they’d eaten: a peach pie on vacation or a roast chicken. My favorite was the list of different types of potatoes that one eats at different points during the progression of a relationship. Crispy potatoes to serve two in the beginning and mashed potatoes for one at the inevitable end.
This story could have been so much more bitter and angry and sad than it turned out to be and it would have been completely understandable—and there’s totally a market for that, too. But Nora Ephron took every opportunity to expose the humor in the situation. Like when she drove back home after he’d begged her to come back, “’Maybe he’s missed me’, I thought as we came around the corner. ‘Maybe he’s come to his senses. Maybe he’s remembered he loves me. Maybe he’s full of remorse’. There was a police car parked in front of the house. ‘Maybe he’s dead’, I thought. That wouldn’t solve everything, but it would solve a few things. He wasn’t, of course. They never are. When you want them to die, they never do.’ Nora Ephron’s wit is savage.
This wasn’t a perfect novel by any means. I’d probably give it 3.5 stars out of 5 just because I was having trouble relating to any of the characters or the world in which they lived. But it was really great and fun and had me laughing out loud numerous times. And I can’t recommend the audiobook enough—it’s narrated by the one and only Meryl Streep who starred in the film adaptation of Heartburn in 1986. And she reads the book as only she can.
Just for fun, here’s a trailer for the film:
For the month of March we’re reading a book that I’m simultaneously thrilled and nervous about. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It’s being made into a television series on Hulu featuring some of my favorite actresses. Also, on the Call Your Girlfriend podcast this week, Aminatou said that she was reading it for the first time and Anne mentioned that now must be such a terrifying moment in history to be experiencing this book as a first timer. And I was like, “Oh, great. Cool. V excited about this.” But we’ll make it through and I can’t waaaaait to get to discuss it in our book club. If you want to get in on our virtual book club discussions, message me on Facebook and get in on this action!
What do you think? What have you read by Nora Ephron?