I just realized that I have a trio of books that represent present, past, and future. All three are new books from authors I have read and loved.
A Boring Wife Settles the Score by Marie-Renee Lavoie (2021)
Not long ago I read Lavoie’s Autopsy of a Boring Wife in which Diane’s husband leaves her for a younger woman after 25 years of marriage, calling Diane boring. It’s such a cliche, right? But Lavoie’s book is fresh and fun, and I was happy to see there would be more from Diane.
I may be boring,… but sometimes I do think I’m very funny.
In this second book, it’s been a couple of years. Diane has moved into the same building as her good friend and she’s gotten a new job at the elementary school.
The last fifteen kids spilled in, one after the other, some with oversized backpacks and milk moustaches, others with a pressing urge to pee, their eyes puffy from tears and sleep, their confused and desperate eagerness to be big kids while remaining little ones, their need to express themselves at the mercy of their churning brains. They didn’t know me, but all of them wanted to tell me what they’d brought for lunch; to talk about their cat; to show me their new teeth, their scribbled artwork, their light-up shoes, their “Frozen” Band-Aids. They couldn’t help running and jumping everywhere, especially on the beanbag in the reading corner, which, an hour later, I wanted to hurl out the window. They were always wanting someone else’s game or book, and all of them talked at the same time–shouting, of course, to get my attention. In short, they were fabulously alive, and I couldn’t begrudge them that; nothing is more exhausting than a slug of a kid who needs, in addition to everything else, someone to breathe life into them. The chaos was therefore reassuring. In the end, these children might not be so different from the ones I’d known in the previous millenium.
Diane’s also met a man that makes her heart pitter-patter. But is she ready for someone new, or is she still waiting for her husband to come back to her?
I preferred the first book over this one, but this will still be gobbled up by anyone who wants more from Diane. And I’m hoping there will be at least one more coming down the line.
Good lines: “Therapists and hairdressers should team up and offer their services in adjoining spaces, like doctors and pharmacists.”
“I desperately missed the days when live conversations nipped misunderstandings in the bud–when it took three minutes to settle what today requires ninety-seven text messages–many of which are impossible to decode.”
“Choosing your confidant is a way of choosing what you want to hear.”
“Sometimes, life can be beautiful.”
The Second History by Rebecca Silver Slayter
Eco-fiction/Cli-fi are abundant these days, and I am eating them up. But you’ve gotta know how to pick ’em. (Or follow book blogs for recommendations!)
All my life I’ve been told to hide, but no one has ever really told me why.
Eban and Judy have been living in the northern Appalachians for the last four years. They retreated into isolation after the deaths of Eban’s mother and Judy’s father. After four years and several miscarriages, Judy is itching to go back. Not just back to where they came from, but back to the cities their parents fled from. “She was as frightened of staying as he was of leaving.”
Judy decides to go, with or without Eban, knowing full well that Eban will follow her anywhere.
As they trudge on through the drifts of snow, he can see the trees closing behind him, hiding the small clearing where they lived. For a moment, looking back over his shoulder, he thinks again that he chose the site well. They might never have been found.
He knows Judy believes that she and Eban are prisoners of a kind, as if a thousand miles of hill and wood could be a jail. But he knows with certainty, watching this hard, clever girl lower her gaze from him, that they are free.
They decide to seek the “fabled” village of “Heaven” where they hope to learn more about what’s happening in the cities. But what they find just raises more questions, and digs up secrets from the past.
The Second History might be apocalyptic, but at its core it’s a love story. Between two people who have known very few others; who fell in love by default. Everything they experience along the way tests their bond as well as their ideas about how to journey into the future. Love and connection is more important now than ever.
Sometimes…. I can’t stand to look at you. When I do, all I see is what’s wrong with me. How unhappy I am with this tiny life that somehow is enough for you. How patient you are with me. Sometimes it makes me want to do things I know are wrong. Just to have a choice.
See also my thoughts on Rebecca’s first book, In the Land of Birdfishes.
The Sister’s Tale by Beth Powning
Those of you who have been following my blog for a long time know how much I loved The Sea Captain’s Wife by Beth Powning. Ten years later, Powning has written a book that is set in the same area as The Sea Captain’s Wife a generation later–the New Brunswick Bay of Fundy coast–and features Azuba’s daughter Carrie as one of the characters.
Carrie is the “activist” friend of Josephine Galloway, the respected wife of a sea captain and mother of three. Unlike Azuba in The Sea Captain’s Wife, Josephine made the decision to stay ashore while her husband goes to sea, despite the great affection between them.
“My mother told me this was why she wanted to go to sea. She was tired of waiting. Always waiting.”
An unexpected change in Josephine’s life finds her more interested in Carrie’s pursuits as a suffragist. She realizes the great unfairness of a woman’s life now that she has become affected by it, and doesn’t want to see her daughters suffer the same fate.
A wife is not kin. A mother is not her children’s legal guardian.
Outrage, seeded by injustice, changed the way she walked, spoke, and listened.
There is also the matter of the British home child that Josephine “bought” at an auction to save her from being bought by one of the salivating men. Flora longs to find her sister who was left behind in England five years ago.
And there are the lodgers who are staying at the boarding house, including the mysterious Mr. Jasper Tuck. There’s more going on in this book than you might think.
As usual, Powning’s story is full of historical tidbits; from the “new wintergreen tooth cleaner from McClean’s Drug Store” to the “pauper auction” in Pleasant Valley (Sussex), New Brunswick and Mary Tibbits, “the first woman to receive a bachelor of arts degree in the British Empire.”
With a cast full of women of different ages and classes, The Sister’s Tale is a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come thanks to the women before us, and of the “relationships that hold women together when life falls apart.”
They sat drinking tea and nibbling gingersnaps. In the circle of caring women, Flora felt a sense of being part, no longer abandoned: the house rising above and around them–closets, hallways, turrets, gables, verandas. The barn, with its empty loft, its vacant stalls. Her garden, growing in the darkness. Baby beets, slender carrots. Rows of potatoes, with purple blossoms… Josephine, always kind. Maud and Ellen, like friends.
Love… “it was a thing like light. You could not describe it to a person who had never seen it. And yet, indescribable, it was something you trusted when, lonely in the dead of night, you waited for morning.”
Further Reading: I also loved Beth Powning’s A Measure of Light.
And for more on British Home Children, read about Genevieve Graham’s The Forgotten Home Child.