• Book Reviews,  Bookish,  Writing

    Fleishman Is In Trouble: a book review and the lies we believe

    There was no way for her to voice an opinion without being accused of anger. Everywhere she turned in her own home, there was a new insult. She would wake up in the morning and walk out the door with Toby and the kids and before she headed in the direction away from the school, she would hear the doorman talk about what a hero Toby was for taking his own children to school.

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Rachel is a wildly successful agent. Toby is a respected doctor. They are getting a divorce and one morning Rachel drops their kids, Solly (9) and Hannah (11), off at Toby’s apartment at 4 am.

    Then Rachel disappears from their lives and her voice from the book.

    Toby is a good dad, there’s no doubt about that. But how good of a parent are you when you hold open contempt for the other parent and question their love for their children?

    Toby scrambles for childcare and is met with sympathy and accommodating help. And against the backdrop of Rachel’s disappearance, she is left without perspective during the pages upon pages airing Toby’s grievances against her, far beyond her disappearance.

    The entire story is told through the eyes of Libby, a longtime friend with struggles and frustrations of her own. From a literary standpoint, the use of her as a narrator was both fascinating and creative.

    And it drove a subtle point home as she is also largely quiet for long portions of the book. The women in Toby’s life don’t have the opportunity to say much.

    Fleishman Is In Trouble… but which Fleishman?

    Toby does his own investigative work and determines that Rachel is having an affair on top of abandoning their children. Double standard: they are technically still married but his extensive use of dating apps and hook-ups are treated as nothing short of normal.

    It was so interesting to me the amount of sympathy, help, support, and passes that Toby received while his wife was torn apart for her career, her drive, and the role reversal within the marriage – that he benefitted from, all while complaining about it at the same time.

    We don’t hear from Rachel until the latter part of the book and while some suspicions were confirmed, what we really found was a woman broken by the belief that women can have it all.

    The writing, the narrator, the stories told within the story, and the subtle way that the author created appeal to almost any adult reader made this a five star book for me.

    There were parts of this book that struck incredibly loud chords with me. Yes, this book may appear to be about divorce – but only on the surface. Sex is a prevailing storyline so no, this book is not for everyone. But if you were taught the lie that a woman or a man could “have it all”, this book is well worth a read.

    Much like Rachel, I spent 20 years in a male dominated industry. Locker room talk, harassment, and all the other fun things that come with the territory were the norm. I believed that I could have it all but it never happened – something always had to give.

    That something was everything from respect from colleagues to the death of a certification I wanted and studied out my guts for.

    That’s where this book really began to resonate with me. I’ve been there and have fought the stress and untimely pause or death of a dream. Sure, I could have gone in the direction of Rachel but we would have ended in the same place.

    Angry and insulted no matter our achievements.

    Women are tired. Men are frustrated. The lies are everywhere. In the book, Toby was free to exhibit little drive by keeping the same job, even when given opportunities for advancement, while he watched Rachel climb the endless corporate ladder which benefited the entire family.

    A fancy apartment in the city, a house in the Hamptons, the best schools – all things Toby begrudged while blaming Rachel for everything. Decisions made jointly were suddenly Rachel’s ideas and Rachel’s career help Toby’s back,  and of course the kids, they preferred Toby over their mother.

    Rachel couldn’t have it all. But neither could Toby. And it broke them.

    Because Fleishman was in trouble.

  • Audiobooks,  Book Club For Introverts,  Book Reviews,  Himalayas of Literature,  Lists,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Top Books of 2019

    When you read 153 books in one year, narrowing it down to a top list is so difficult. I am a firm believer in the DNF so if I finish a book, there is some value to be found in the writing. I picked these books based on what the book did for me. Did it change me as a person? As a reader? Did it change my world view? Did it bolster a current belief?

    I attempted a top 10 and couldn’t narrow it down by a single book more so here are my Top 11 Books for 2019:

    1. Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk – this book won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s dark, but not too dark. It was thought provoking and expertly captured the human condition and our roles in society. This is my top book of 2019 – the rest are in no particular order.
    2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – A tough read but one that should be filed under “books everyone should read.” This book not only delved into the Underground Railroad but also what happened after “freedom” was achieved. It was an eye opener and a gut punch done so well because the author was not only well-researched but also an incredibly talented writer.
    3. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi – Theatre kids are ________. Kidding, of course. But as the parent of a theatre kid, I throughly enjoyed this non-linear story that explored power, consent, revenge, and emotion. This was a challenging read but well worth it.
    4. The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall – This book. It’s probably the one I can’t stop talking about. It’s also one I can recommend to almost anyone… for those who are religious, those who have been hurt by religion, those who doubt and question, those who enjoy historical fiction… I could go on and on. This book changed me as a person.
    5. A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar – What a wild ride! Told in a completely non-linear format – even the chapters were numbered out of order – this book explores what it is to be marginalized, forgotten, and what it takes for a teen to pull herself out of that life. This book stuck with me for quite some time.
    6. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Meet my new favorite author. This character driven story covers what it is to be a member in an imperfect family – so basically all of us. And extra stars for the audiobook, narrated by America’s favorite uncle, Tom Hanks. I listened to this book and loved every minute of it.
    7. There There by Tommy Orange – This book is an experience. It follows over a dozen Native American characters headed to the same event. Another non-linear format that flashed back to explain each character and the person they are in the present. If you want to understand more about the plight of the Native American, this would be great book to start with.
    8. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – I finished this book yesterday and cannot stop thinking about it. On the surface it seemed to be a book about divorce. Except it wasn’t. Gender roles, parenting, career sacrifices, marriage, and the old adage that “women can have it all” are what this book was really about. Definitely a book that I identified with and I cannot wait to post my full review of this one.
    9. Naamah by Sarah Blake – Magical realism is my favorite genre. Magical realism that takes place on Noah’s ark told through the eyes of Noah’s wife, Naamah? This was probably the most original book I read this year. It is not for everyone though – if you prefer the original version of Noah and his ark, you probably want to stick with that one.
    10. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – This year’s A Little Life for me. This was an epic book of loss, love, deceit, and redemption. And yes, the book was better than the movie.
    11. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – This book changed me as a reader. I read this book with my Book Oblivion group and it was the beginning of a shift in focus for me. It’s a beast and not to be read alone. My Book Club for Introverts is tackling this book in January and February. Check us out on Goodreads if you’d like to join the fun! We are also reading another book during those months if Infinite Jest isn’t for you.

    Thanks for talking books with me this year!

  • Feminism,  Wit,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: a barbaric yawp

    After spending over a month with contractors, tradespeople, and even a random mother-in-law – who does not belong to us – in our home, I think it’s safe to say that we have seen it all in our dusty house.

    ALL. Remember the mother-in-law.

    Steve and I built this house together thirteen years ago. Neither of us can think of a single disagreement we had over anything. We were also newlyweds so perhaps that had something do with it.

    Thirteen years later we were three weeks into a renovation that he was largely absent for – I’m at home during the day, he’s at work. Fair enough.

    Except it is not fair. During the construction of our home I dealt with no one other than the builder on very rare occasions. But this time around it was me dealing with the contractor, the trades, and the mother-in-law.

    I might be a tad bitter about her. More on that later.

    Why isn’t it fair? Because women are not treated the same. The same contractor would question and discount my input just to turn around and call Steve – who we explicitly instructed was not to be called because his days are busy enough already; oh, and because I’m a capable adult who takes care of a house, often on my own.

    Because I was a woman alone in a home with bunch of guys, I set out to be nice and establish myself as the owner present in the house. I learned their names. I told them good morning and good bye in the evenings. I commented on their work. I smiled. 

    That last one was my big misstep.

    We all know the anecdotes of men asking women to smile for their Diet Coke as they pay at the gas station. Or the rise in popularity and criticism of RBF – resting bitch* face.

    I wish I had more RBF – I shall speak with my Botox lady next time – and less southern politeness. Sadly, being polite gets you run over more than it makes a friend – especially in these situations.

    We had a terrible tile crew and even after it was fixed, it wasn’t. That was my breaking point. This is our last house and I’ll be damned if I’m going to have a backsplash that is two shades of grey. 

    Steve emailed his concerns to the owner and received a response full of excuses. I also sent a separate email detailing the unfinished work that was part of the contract and had been paid for.

    Guess who didn’t get a response to their email?

    Here’s where things really went sideways.

    But first: Steve is a wonderful man. He is progressive, supports my attempts to smash the patriarchy, and he is right along side me in raising a strong, capable, questioning, and independent 16 year old daughter. We don’t have defined gender roles in our home – it’s more about me being short and him being tall. He takes care of the tall things; I take care of the short things. And even better, we enjoy doing projects together. 

    But he is a fixer and after me trying to explain just how bad it had been to be treated like this in my own home, he offered up this solution:

    I could email the contractor from Steve’s email address telling him all the things that were horribly wrong with the situation. Such as: the attitudes toward me, trying at every turn to pull something over on me, the intimidating and pushy behavior, and the mother in law.

    Holy hell, if I owned a sword it would have be out and I would have been standing on a rooftop for all to hear:

    I refuse to only be heard by a man because he thinks another man is behind the words. I sound my barbaric yawp! – Walt Whitman 

    Ok, I didn’t say that last part. But you get the point. So did Steve. 

    He sat down and calmly composed an email, never to receive a response. But the words were out there in the universe and for the first time I think he got how I was feeling. 

    We have since had more issues and this morning we had a leak from the stone in the fireplace after it rained. I texted the contractor and I kid you not, I received a thorough mainsplaining on how a leak is water escaping from a crack.

    Astounding.

    So here I am today and I have a lot of questions and misgivings about society. We treat genders, races, and religions with disdain for not being like us. We take advantage of situations, intimidate, demand, and tell females to smile for a stupid Diet Coke. 

    We adapt and develop RBF. We learn that politeness is often dangerous. And we yawp until men see our perspective from the rooftop. 

    Why? Here’s a hint: it’s not to be heard. That’s not the problem because believe me, they hear us. It’s because men taking on badly behaving men is the springboard to change.

    They listen to each other when it comes to certain issues. But very few will tackle this one. And before men get scared, this doesn’t have to involve protests and signs. Simply calling out the bad behavior would go such a long way. 

    Not immediate change but if enough say something, enough will pay attention.

    So… the mother-in-law. This is the part that actually grieves me. She was downright nasty to me. She lied to the owner, her son-in-law, took a check we left in good faith – because we had to leave – without completing the work and called me a liar over something so stupid. She was by far the most defensive, the most deceitful, the most vicious, and the one looking to get away with the least amount of quality work for the money paid.

    When women turn on women, we take a years of steps backwards. We un-do efforts by men to treat us with respect and their efforts stop. And when men say nothing to their male counterparts, women just become shrill and difficult. It’s a circuitous mess.

    Steve tells me every night that I’m his favorite sound in the world. I have questioned that of late but he swears it’s still true. But until people start treating people with respect, I’ll continue with my occasional yawp but far away from remodeling projects.

    The painters are here next week and hopefully I’m not continuing with a part three but instead telling you about the time this week that my rabbits turned themselves blue.

    Oh, and by the way, I hope the mother-in-law, her son-in-law, and family had a wonderful Thanksgiving together last week. 

    * I strongly dislike the word “bitch”. It’s demeaning but that’s what the face is called – for now. 

     

  • Wit,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: construction therapy

    …and Steve’s worst idea ever. Stay tuned!

    Want to expose every crack and weakness in your relationship all at once?

    Remodel your house.

    What started as an I’ve got this – boldly proclaimed from my mouth – quickly became a slow descent into I AM TRIGGERED.

    And I don’t use that term lightly because that’s a giant pet peeve of mine. People should be able to freely and genuinely say that their body, their emotions, and their past are all colliding at once.

    It’s very messy.

    Between tradespeople looking at me like I had two heads, insisting I had plumbing work done that I did not have done, calling me a liar, aggressively asking for money, to me throwing them out of my house – I was over it after 3 weeks of this all day, every day.

    Oh and my favorite, being asked a question, giving an answer, and them texting Steve, IN FRONT OF ME – thousands of miles away – because they didn’t like my answer.

    I’m three feet away from you and I know what I want. I also do what I want in case you’re wondering.

    We finally got most of the work done and fired the original contractor. But that didn’t fix my mental fatigue over having people in my home for three weeks treating me like an idiot.

    Oh, and I’ve failed to mention – we started all of this the day of opening night of Chaney’s two week run of Elf the Musical.

    All the jazz hands. And other hand gestures.

    We remodeled the two guest baths, all the floors, the kitchen, the fireplace and the only room we left untouched was the master bath because we have bigger plans that we want to do right the first time.

    Enter Steve’s worst idea ever.

    One night we were laying in bed commiserating over the layer of dust that now functioned as powdered foundation for me when Steve wondered aloud, “what if we took the wall and door down that separate the toilet from the rest of the bathroom?”.

    Me: So you want to turn our bathroom into a prison bathroom??

    I’ll get right on putting a drain in the middle of the floor tomorrow. Easiest remodel ever. 

    We got a good laugh out of it and despite everything, we are thrilled with the results of both the remodel and the improvement in our ability to communicate. We also laugh a lot about all 5′ of me standing on the landing of the stairs to throw the tile crew out of our house – hey, higher ground is needed when you’re short.

    And now that’s being remodeled to add a podium for me to stand and regularly address the family.

    Everyone wins.

    Painting the rest of the house happens on December 16th and then we are done for awhile.

    But Steve is still getting soap-on-a-rope for Christmas.

     

  • Book Reviews,  Writing

    Lake Season: a book review

    Lake essentials: Chacos sandals, a blanket, coffee & a good book

    𝑨 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒍𝒆𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒓, 𝒂 𝒏𝒆𝒘 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒐𝒍𝒅 𝒔𝒆𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒔 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒌𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒔𝒖𝒎𝒎𝒆𝒓 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑩𝒍𝒖𝒆𝒃𝒆𝒍𝒍 𝑰𝒏𝒏.

    Synopsis: In a new series by Denise Hunter, when their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream: turning their historic Bluebell, North Carolina home back into an inn. The situation would just be temporary—three years at the most—then they would sell the inn and Molly could get back to chasing her own dreams.

    Adam Bradford (aka bestselling author Nathanial Grey) is a reclusive novelist with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to the setting of his next book, a North Carolina lake town. There he immediately meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.

    Molly and Adam strike up an instant friendship. When Molly finds a long-lost letter in the walls of her inn she embarks on a mission with Adam to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But Adam has secrets of his own. Past and present collide as truths are revealed, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.

    Review: I paused for a moment before accepting this review opportunity. I am typically not a big romance reader but there were enough other moving parts to intrigue me. By the second chapter, I was hooked because it’s not your typical romance.

    Complex grief – when there is more than one loss at the same time – is incredibly difficult in real life and the author was able to capture and write about it perfectly. I appreciated that the siblings were actually siblings – they had issues, differences in grief, and different lives yet they still managed to work together in a realistic way.

    This is the second book this year that I have read where an old house a previous post office. I don’t know why but I love this premise. Maybe because mail is falling by the wayside in favor of emails or perhaps it’s because of the art of letter writing is becoming a thing of the past.

    Without giving any spoilers, I liked the relationship between Molly and Adam much better than I expected to. Add that to the fact that Adam is a writer and you had me hooked – I enjoy a good plot involving writers written by a writer.

    Last but not least, the characters were surprisingly well-developed for the first book in a series – another typical drawback for me with a series.

    This was a pleasant book to read on a rainy afternoon and I’m looking forward to loaning out this book while waiting for the second book. If you’ve read my reviews in the past, a big sticking point for me is who I can recommend a book to and for this book – the answer is anyone who enjoys romance with complex characters and multiple storylines that don’t always revolve around romance.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and TNZ Fiction for a free copy of this book in exchange for promotion and my honest review.

    Purchase Links

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

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