Snow Child: Chapters 1 – 3

I just have to say that this book is a delight to read. Ivey is great at using descriptions without letting them get in the way of the book. It’s almost as if she has been able to pull you out of your own mind and put you in hers while she walks you through the story.

That being said, she also uses her descriptive powers for the characterizations. She’s not just good at fulfilling your senses about surroundings; she also gives you a feel for the characters as if you have also been through the same things, experienced the same thoughts, and had the same emotions.

Warning: Spoiler Alerts

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Warning: Possible Triggers (suicide)

I suppose it helps that many of us have been through some of these circumstances: unable to have a child whether due to physiology or finances, losing a child, or suicidal ideation and even attempts. Many of us have had to carry these heavy burdens. Relating to the characters in such a way is definitely an added bonus, but I think Ivey would convince many to relate even if they never had those specific experiences.

Due to all of these reasons, I am hooked. I am right there with Mabel as she’s precariously walking along the cracking ice that rests on the deep river, my toes curling as if to grip onto some unseen sheet of ice myself.
I can feel the cold air and imagine the body aches and callouses Jack has developed after working so hard in the elements.
I can feel their thin clothes on my own skin and imagine what it must be like to subsist off of carrots and potatoes, alone

But I wonder, of all places, why Alaska? I’m sure I will find out later on, but why go so far away. I know they wanted to get away from the gossip after losing their child, but I’m sure Mabel could have used her family’s influence to secure a decent job for Jack and, quite possible, herself as well. Why travel to Alaska in the 1920’s when the homesteads were still being cleared.
As is stated many times in the book, Jack is no spring chicken. Why choose a way of life that is so physically difficult?
I’m sure an explanation is coming, but until then, why?

I think a lot of what comes through for me is “making due”. It seems like that is what many people are struggling with, today, and is something that is universally understood.
Hell, when I had my first closet apartment, I had to make due plenty. I washed my clothes in the sink kitchen’s double sink, bathed in the small bathroom sink, and used a single ‘burner’ hot pad to make my weekly portions of spaghetti. Every now and again, I was lucky to be able to afford to buy a bit of hamburger to put in. No wonder I was so skinny, I was living off of pasta.
I digress.
Getting by is something that everyone, aside from the 1%, can relate to. Not only when it comes to the physical aspects of life (washing clothes in the sink), but also the emotional (trying to keep a lid on the simmering anxiety that rests beneath the surface). These are things many of us struggle with on a daily basis. It is an inherent part of our lives.

Another thing that is related to this is the seeming lack of control we have over our own lives. This hits home with the fact that Mabel and Jack have to live off of  whatever they can grow in a season and on a small plot of land. Also, when Jack notices the snow in the mountains and thinks to himself about how it’s going to be snowing in the valley soon.
We very often forsee circumstances in our lives that we know we have little to no control over. All we can do is “hunker down” a.k.a., make the necessary preparations and brace for impact.

Many of us employ coping strategies to convince ourselves everything will be alright. Like George Benson did when he gave advice to Jack about just needing a bit of moose meat to get through the winter. Benson seemed completely satisfied in this information and seemed to think it would change Jack’s situation for the better.

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All it takes, is a little moose.

In the third chapter, I think the loneliness Mabel feels really hits home. She feels like an outsider to Jack finding new friends. She was under the impression that the two of them were in it together, everyone else be damned. I think this is a sentiment I can readily relate to. And also the fact that her husband, Jack, is pushing Mable further and further away while growing ever more close to the neighbors around him.
Mabel doesn’t understand that this friendship is not just needed emotionally, it’s needed to survive. It takes more hands on deck and the romantic notion of cutting one’s own bit of land out starts to fall apart.
Granted, the only reason Jack is trying to keep Mabel isolated is to prevent her from being hurt, again. He feels guilty for not being there for his wife and his solution is to keep her contained.

The experience of having the Benson’s come out to help Jack is very showing of the uncontrollable emotional circumstances Mabel is facing. Mabel knows what she should say and do to be polite, but is unable to due to her confusion and pain. This just increases her isolation as she supposes everyone carries a negative opinion of her because of said behavior.
Having struggled with social anxiety my entire life, this is something that I can absolutely relate to. I know how people see me, or at least I think I do, but there is nothing I can do about it. It is what it is.
But this is the same struggle Mable deals with as she attempts to socialize with the Bensons and answer their innocuous questions.

Most importantly, my question is answered. Why they moved to Alaska of all places. Sounds like something I would try to force my husband to do.

So, in just three chapters, I’ve come to learn about the nuances of not only Jack and Mabel’s marriage, but also how they are each coping with it. They are both of them so intent on doing what they think is best for the other, that they are tripping over their good intentions and falling flat on their faces

Sounds familiar.

I am also revelling in the interactions between Jack and the Bensons, and Mabel and the Bensons. I feel like a fly on the wall. “If only Esther knew the real reason Mabel was reluctant. It’s not solely about the moose.”
I was taken a little aback by the Bensons. Although I heartily enjoy their hard working attitudes, they do know what Jack and Mabel are going through survival wise. It would have been nice if they had given them some meat since they have boys of their own who can hunt.  Jack and Mabel could have proved themselves another year when they were more prepared. It doesn’t sound extremely neighborly to me.

I knew I was going to relate to this book, I just didn’t think it would be so thoroughly. I am a little reluctant to continue, but I am eager to learn about what is next to come. Will Mabel finally shed her proper upbringing and get her hands dirty? Will Jack finally let her?

The Snow Child

Every couple of months, I find it in my schedule to make a trip to the area chain of used bookstores. I prefer Half Price Books, but I have found decent selections at The Salvation Army and Goodwill as well.
On my most recent stop at HPB, I picked up a book out of their clearance aisle. The title being, “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey.  Now, this book was only $2.00, so that probably had a lot to do with me picking it up. However, I did browse through it a bit to see what it was about.. I swear. I don’t just buy books for their covers. Though I almost did. Ahem.

As far as I could tell, and as far as the inner jacket of the book told me, this book is about a couple living in Alaska. This couple is unable to have children and so, one day, they build a child out of snow. Then something peculiar happens.. the child becomes real.

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This kind of hit home for me as I am also past the time in life where I think having a child is a good idea. Still, part of me wonders what would have been. It really is impossible to satisfy both sides of this coin, so grieving is a good way to accept what is and move forward.
I think part of me picked this book up because of that.  The only thing I worry about is that this will turn into some story where the couple gets the child of their dreams and all is merry and right with the world once again.If that’s what happens, I will make a new window when I throw this book at the wall.

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I could start my own demo business – just give me bad books to read.

Still, with my reservations, I am beginning the book.

I wish I had a book club to go to that was also reading this book, so I decided to start a conversation about it on here. Every week, I will read so many chapters and jot down what happened, how I reacted, and the whys. I will talk about the characters, the situations they face, and how I can relate to them.
I am really hoping someone else out there will want to talk about this, too, but I know how vast the Internet can be. So I’m not going to hold my breath.

Still, if you have anything to say, it’d be great to hear from you!

On to Chapter One!

Book Review – Lord of the Flies

Alright people, I’ve got a deal with myself.  I am trying to read the “classics” to see what all the hubbub is about and if I am truly missing out on anything.  I’m not really sure, to be honest.  I’ve had some books that I could not get through at all and ended up throwing across the room (J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”) and others that I struggled through but was determined to finish (George Orwell’s “1982”).  There have been but a very few that I have loved most of (Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”) and would not mind reading again.  To be honest, it’s not just the classics, there are very few books that I read over.

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All of that out of the way, the latest casualty to my Classic Studies BiblioPlan is William Golding’s “The Lord of the Flies”.  I have to say that I found this book to be similar to “1982” in regards to addressing social and political aspects of life as we know it.  Because of that, I found it difficult to get through.  Who wants a reminder of how bad things are? However, the reason I believe this book is a ‘classic’ is because this sociopolitical aspect seems to transcend time.  It spoke to those who were reading it in the 1950’s and still speaks to those who read it today.  I found it even more accurately depressing because at the time I was reading it, the country was experiencing social and political turmoil.  Hurricane Sandy had hit the East Coast, the Presidential races had come to a close (but all the political mumbo-jumbo had restarted in full force), and then the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut took place.  But because of all these goings on in reality, I was able to better understand the happenstances the characters in the book were facing.  And the book shed some light onto these occurrences taking place in reality as well.  As much as I forced myself to finish it, I suppose it was a good book if it was able to do that.  And if you have not read the book already, there are spoilers ahead so be warned. On with the review!

In this book, a group of boys varying in age from youngsters to preteens become trapped on a small island.  They face somewhat of a paradox: trying to create an adult world with the skills and experiences that youngsters have.  I likened it to trying to build a car with only wood and rocks: it’s not going to work out.  The boys seem to immediately create a social pecking order that is based on their experiences from before they were stranded.  The smaller boys are “lower class”, the larger boys who can help are “middle class”, and the larger boys who are aggressive enough to try and lead are “upper class”.  They also immediately put a higher value on the boys that “do” versus the boys that “think”.  In the end, this is their undoing as they succumb to barbaric like behaviors.  I thought of it like a group of unattended boys on steroids.  The saying “boys will be boys” seemed to be exaggerated and somehow intermingled with the behavior of grown men who allow their greed for power to overtake their sense of humanity.  It was interesting.  Even more interesting was the instant change in the boys once they were “found out”, or rescued.  As soon as an adult showed up, all the “fun” was over and their “war games” had come to an end.  In doing so, the only person who seemed to be given credit (or even want to take any, for that matter), was the one boy who tried to change the barbaric behaviors of the others.

Mr.Golding also touches on the mental and emotional tolls living in such a society has on its populace.  Some of the boys succumb to mental breakdowns due to the elements and the decaying social structure.  Others are forgotten about and must struggle to live on their own as best they can, generally the younger boys.  Still others are outcasted and must push to survive in a social setting where their abilities to think outweigh their ability to do.  It was a mix of High School social hierarchy and political social hierarchy, and how sad the two are so easily intermingled.

I found this book to be confusing at times, in part because Mr.Golding seemed to be trying to use words to paint an abstract painting.  His adjectives were a little on the overused and heavy side.  Once I was able to get beyond that, however, the book was a little more understandable.  I found myself often asking, “Why did he choose to write it this way? Why not choose this instead?”  It was an educating look not only into the sociopolitical aspects of life as we know it, but also into the mind set of the author himself.  The saving grace was that this book is fairly short and is filled with behaviors that were probably considered shocking at the time of its writing (such as being bloodthirsty).  However, I was always told that this book was about sexual perversion or abuse and I never got that impression while reading it.  Perhaps I am dense, but it seemed to me that the perversion and abuse was of a social nature, not a sexual one.  I must admit, this is why I took so long to getting around to reading it, I don’t enjoy reading about sexual trauma.

In the end, I struggled to get through this book but that may be because it did exactly what Mr.Golding hoped it would: gave an accurate portrayal of the sociopolitical standards of our culture.  It isn’t always pleasant to have a constant reminder of why we are the way we are, and even more so, that we cannot simply flip a switch to make things better.  With all that in mind, I found the book to be an intellectual read that would be great for a book club looking to explore such matters.  It offers a lot of chances for discussion of behaviors and situations that bitch slap the reader into reality.  Good book, awful reminder.

Book Review: Math Doesn’t Suck

It’s book review time!  Yay!

Alright, a few weeks ago.. err maybe longer (has it been months already?) I wanted to brush up on my math skills.  I headed to my local library, which happens to be half a block away, and browsed their math related books.  Wow, they all seemed pretty technical.  Then again, I guess math is technical.

I found “Math Doesn’t Suck” by Danica McKellar, you know.. the girl from The Wonder Years.  At any rate, it seems she went to college and became a math major.  Sweet.  Score one for Woman Power!  Wait.. maybe not..

It seems that Miss McKellar “dumbs down” math to make it more relatable for young girls.  At first, I overlooked her metaphors and similes that were geared towards Junior High and High School females.  There were your run of the mill boy-obsession, fashion-obsession, and BFF-obsession word problems.  To be honest, my teenagehood (is that a word?) was nothing like that.  I was a geek/nerd/etc.  I loved doing homework, talking to people about new things.. I didn’t get into boys until my early to mid twenties.  Something that made my mother worry relentlessly.  My point being, although I can see the desire for McKellar to stereotype her math problems in an attempt to make math more relatable, it merely made things more annoying for me.  It actually became a hindrance, as I had to overlook the stereotype (from a woman, hello?!) and try to create a different word problem that was more.. realistic.

Also, the language was dumbed down.  It was all, like, totally.. Oh.My.God.  It was sadly obvious that she was purposefully doing this in an attempt to, again, make her books relatable and yet it backfired for me.  My language has never been like that, unless I was mocking someone else’s.

If it weren’t for these things, I may have stuck it out and continued learning through the rest of the chapters. This is because she has some really great ideas and techniques about how to do math.  I did not finish the first book and I definitely will not read the other books.

Speaking of the other books, it is disappointing that they all have a sexually-based theme and are yet supposed to be geared towards young girls (Hot X: Algebra; Kiss My Math; and Girls Get Curves: Geometry).  Really?  I think you could have done better Danica.

I give it 2 out of 5 stars.  The math techniques are fairly solid and will help your youngster out.. if he/she can get past all the language and stereotypes.  Baaaaaad actress, math whiz, author.

Check it out for yourself! Danica’s Math Doesn’t Suck PAGE