Miss Dreamsville

dreamsvilleI didn’t realize when I picked the books that I would be reading this week that I would be immersing myself in the sixties.  I started with Ordinary Grace and was sent to a tragic summer in a small town in 1961.  Then I picked up Miss Dreamsville and found myself in Naples, Florida in 1962.  Not only are both books set in the 1960s, they are both told by the main character looking back in time.  In this case it is Dora Witherspoon, now 80, who is looking back at this turbulent time.

When Jackie (soon to become radio personality Miss Dreamsville) comes to Naples, Florida from Boston, she brings her Yankee ways and ideas with her and decides to start a literary society.  The members are a bunch of misfits – the divorced Dora, a woman who secretly writes sex articles for magazines, a woman convicted of murdering her husband, a black housekeeper, a librarian, and a gay man.  They share books, and experiences, as they grow towards acceptance of themselves.

“Maybe freedom means defining yourself any way you want to be.”

With the backdrop of the south in the 60s, the KKK, civil rights, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, combined with the idea of a group of outcasts finding themselves and friendship through the sharing of books, this book could have been great.  Unfortunately, it was only OK – a quick, light, and enjoyable read without a lot of depth.  The main characters were lightly sketched and other characters in the novel were almost non-existent in their characterization.  It was hard to tell whether or not I should like them – or whether I should even care.

I’m not saying that I hated it, I didn’t – it was entertaining – I was just disappointed.  The concept was there with an eclectic group of characters, a great setting, and plenty of opportunity for exploration of backgrounds, storylines, underlying issues, etc.  Unfortunately most of it seemed to be quickly glossed over and in the end it left me wanting.

Title: Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society
Author: Amy Hill Hearth
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 272
Publication: Atria Books, October 2012

The End of Your Life Book Club

ImageI really need to start keeping a pad of paper next to me when I read.  It seems that whenever I finish a book there is always something I want to go back to, some quote or reference or thought, but it can be hard to find or the book is due back at the library or I am already on to the next book, and the thought is lost.  Why don’t I just keep a notebook and a pen nearby when I read?  I’m not sure.  I think it feels too much like work, like reading a book for some college course where I will need to be ready to answer questions later.  Taking notes in the middle of reading seems to somehow distract from the total absorption that I have come to know and love and associate with books.  And then there’s the extra paraphernalia required, the notebook, the pen, a place to set them down, the awkwardness of reaching for them and balancing them on my lap while not losing my place. I know, I know, taking notes while reading is much easier to do with e-books.  But while I gratefully own a Nook Tablet, and use it extensively whenever I travel, all of my reasons for preferring the real thing are a subject for another day and another rant…

The End of Your Life Book Club is due back at the library, tomorrow, but I am going to have to take the time today to skim back through it and capture a few things.  Mostly, all of the titles of the wonderful books that I want to add to my “to read” list (which is already impossibly long, not to mention my “to re-read list!).  The book tells the true story of the author and his mother and the relationship that they share through books.  His mother, Mary Anne, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and for the time they have remaining, they share books, their thoughts on books, and how they relate to life in the midst of chemotherapy appointments and hospice care.  Their conversations cover a wide-range of topics, both global and intensely personal, giving them the opportunity to know and understand one another more fully.

The ending is no surprise, and leaves you wishing you had been given the opportunity to know this amazing woman. She believed that “books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books… is the grandest entertainment, and is also how you take part in the human conversation…  books really do matter: they’re how we know what we need to do in life, and how we tell others… that books can be how we get closer to each other, and stay close, even in the case of a mother and son who were very close to each other to begin with, and even after one of them has died”.  I could not agree more.

I cannot count the number of times I have reached for the phone to call Dottie, my dear friend and mother-in-law, about tell her about something, anything, a book, a day at the library, something the kids have done, only to remember that she is gone.  And like the author, many times I tell her anyway…

Now back to the book to add to my “to read” list!

    Title: The End of Your Life Book Club
    Author: Will Schwalbe
    Genre: Non-Fiction
    Pages: 326
    Publication: Knopf, October 2012