Neshama’s Choices for June 12th

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Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood   

I’ve been a fan of hers since the early days and now that we’re both old babes, I really looked forward to checking in with her again.  It was a mixed bag (which could have been my mood) because I found the tone of some of these short stories a bit of a downer.  So why am I recommending it?  Because she’s brilliant, even when carping. Like the story of reincarnation: snail into woman, and it turns out the human form leaves a lot to be desired from a content snail’s perspective. Atwood is certainly not a sissy when it comes to acknowledging the depredations of old age, so give these a whirl.   


Flight by Lynn Steger Strong   

A Christmas gathering is often like a petri dish for intensifying family dysfunction and this clutch of folks is definitely at odds. Their mother has recently died, and real estate takes center stage. What is equitable? Support Henry, the feckless artist and family? Sell the house so Josh who made bad investment decisions can get his feet under him again? Their various offspring have needs as well. A snowstorm isolates them and when they finally see what the artist has been working on (many clay birds suspended from rafters form a murmuration of sorts) there’s the beginning of healing.   


Little Miseries by Kimberly Olson Fakih   

The protagonist, also named Kimberly, experiences family tragedy at age 4 when there’s a fatal accident on the train tracks.  Rural, small-town Midwest setting in the ‘70s and we get dispatches from her at various ages in a kind of collage --short chapters that bring her life into sharp focus. Disappointments and resentments amidst the joys and tedium of childhood on the farm, full of sense-memory. Kimberly is a dedicated reader and keen observer. By the last chapter at age 15, we get to know her family and her world from the inside out.   


Safekeeping by Abigail Thomas   

I read this wonderful autobiography when it came out in 2000 but wanted to revisit it after I came upon a new book by her which I’ll review as soon as we get our copy. There’s a stunning simplicity and accuracy here where very short chapters serve to illuminate her world from many angles. Sometimes in the first person, sometimes in the third. Curiosity aroused, and I often wondered where a particular vignette fit in. But by the end, all these seemingly disparate facets aligned to fill in a picture of her life as a young mother and three times wife and formed a breathtaking whole.