From the Library: Community, growing up, and pop tarts

Wonder World by K.R. Byggdin (Enfield & Wizenty)

When I saw the cover of this book (a jar of pickles?), I knew I had to read it. (And–although Byggdin grew up in Manitoba–they are now living on the East Coast.)

Isaac Funk has been living in Halifax for ten years; for ten years he has been estranged from his Mennonite family in Manitoba. When he was caught kissing another boy at his high school graduation party, he was asked to leave the church.

But now his Opa has died. And his father cared enough to find out how to get in touch with him to let him know. Not only that, but he has inherited his Opa’s farm.

Isaac’s mother left when he was only two, and his father kept himself at a distance. So, it was at his Opa’s farm where Isaac felt most loved. This is enough to bring him home, even if just for the funeral.

Beyond the revolving doors, the sweltering afternoon heat immediately engulfs me. Gone is the briny fishy air of the Maritimes, replaced by the scent of dirt clods and manure.

Wonder World is filled with humour while covering universal, relatable topics like faith and belonging.

He makes one of those specific kinds of disapproving noises only Mennonites with wearisome children can produce from the back of their throats.

My people love to help someone they can judge at the same time.

… people in Mennoland believe you can pray the gay away, that even atheists can be reasoned with. But once you’ve gone over to the United Church? Your spot in hell is all but guaranteed alongside feminists, pro-choicers, and anyone who’s ever voted NDP.

A life without rhubarb sauce is a sad life indeed.

Winnipeg in March is a snotty nose, all snotty discharge and crusty concrete.

Some Maintenance Required by Marie-Renee Lavoie (House of Anansi)

Lavoie’s last two novels (Autopsy of a Boring Wife and A Boring Wife Settles the Score) have been about a middle aged woman moving forward after her husband left her because she was too boring. They were both entertaining, especially the first one. In Some Maintenance Required, Lavoie goes back to a style that reminds me more of her first book, Mister Roger and Me. In fact, the character and the Bingo hall setting show up again – I remembered it immediately.

Laurie’s Dad works at a garage and her Mom works as a parking lot attendant at the hospital. I loved the details about her mother’s job. Over the years she’s made the little booth she works in cozy with pictures, plants, and stacks of books to read. Actually making it sound like an appealing job. Laurie’s been coming to visit her there for years, too, and once she was old enough, could spell her mother off so her mother could take a pee break.

Laurie visits her father (who eats toast with butter and mustard everyday for lunch) at work, as well, where all the other men at the garage treat her like their own daughter. When Laurie starts seeing someone, he comments that he’s never dated a girl with 6 fathers before.

Laurie was born to her mother late in life, and the three of them are very close. They’ve also taken a stray neighbourhood child under their wing. Cindy is neglected by her parents and rough around the edges, but she and Laurie adore each other. We get to see Laurie’s feisty side come out over an incident with Cindy’s mother. It comes out again and again over the injustices of life.

I couldn’t help but love Laurie (and her family) and root for them all the way. I’m hoping she’ll show up again sometime. This book is a real heart-warmer.

Favourite line: “Impossible stories have their charm; they line our memories with velvet, a cushion for whenever life proves too harsh.”

Been There, Ate That by Jules Torti (Pottersfield Press)

A kind of memoir in essays, Been There Ate That is a nostalgic stroll through the ’80s and ’90s, primarily through sense of taste. Which is why I wanted to read it – who doesn’t want to remember the tastes of their youth? Fried bologna, maraschino cherries, Jello-O salad, canned soup casseroles, Chef Boyardee, Fun Dip, Nerds, Cheese Whiz, and Voortman cookies. Personally, I didn’t get to taste a pop tart until I was much older, and then I was disappointed.

But it’s not just about food… Torti includes other experiences, like finding the prize in the cereal box, her Dukes of Hazard lunch box, taking Flintstone vitamins, collecting smelly stickers and Petro Canada’s Limited Edition 1988 Calgary Olympics souvenir glasses. There’s music, such as Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” and Alias’s “More Than Words Can Say.” And TV shows like Growing Pains, Family Ties, and Who’s the Boss?.

There are lists at the end of the book that include a highlight reel of questionable things eaten by the author, ten pro tips gleaned from her mother, reading recommendations, and–best of all–an exclusive recipe for fried worms.

What foods remind you of childhood? Have you ever eaten a worm?

#LoveYourLibrary @ BookishBeck

25 thoughts on “From the Library: Community, growing up, and pop tarts

    • Naomi says:

      You *would* enjoy that one, Laila! I hope you can find it!

      We ate so much bologna as a kid, as well as fried ham slices and hotdogs with processed cheese slices. Lol

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    I would have picked all of these up for the titles and covers alone. I think I’d especially like the Torti for all the food and pop culture references — some very familiar stuff there!

    • Naomi says:

      That book was a lot of fun! My sister and I even made our little brother eat a worm once. Or maybe we all ate them? Eck. But better than a fuzzy caterpillar. Lol

  2. Annette says:

    Several foods remind me of my childhood. Mother made homemade waffles on Sunday nights in the winter. So, the smell of waffles with melted butter is a good memory. Cornbread. Pot roast with vegies. Mother called it a plain cake, but she’d sometimes put in lemon or vanilla flavors, plus drizzle an icing on top. The icing did not cover the cake it only drizzled over the top portion.
    I’ve not eaten a worm, but my brothers who are 10 and 12 years older fed me a pill bug when I was about 2. They still laugh about it.

    • Naomi says:

      Us older siblings tend to want to feed our younger siblings gross things, when you’re too young to really know how gross it is. It was surprisingly easy to get our brother to eat his worm. Did you protest, or go along with it?

      Those memorable foods your mother made sound warm and cozy. My mom also liked to make cornbread. And we had homemade cookies All The Time. Cookies are still my favourite. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. annelogan17 says:

    I have the latest Marie Renee-Lavoie on my shelf but haven’t gotten to it yet because it wasn’t in my favourite series about the wife. I’m guessing by your review that this means this newest one isn’t hilarious like her last two?

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