Ruby by Cynthia Brown

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Ruby by Cynthia Bond

I picked this book up after both Oprah and Ann Friedman highly recommended it. 

The book tells the story of Ruby Bell, a young girl who experiences horrific acts – physical abuse, rape, human trafficking – and it drives her to madness, and the love story/redemption story between her and a man name Ephram Jennings.

It was really rather difficult to read some of the descriptions of the cruelty against Ruby, and generally against the women in Liberty, the town she’s from. I also found myself interested in the magical realism in the book, which primarily focuses on an evil spirit that inhabits the powerful men in Liberty and seeks to destroy Ruby. Everything else seems secondary to that – the friend-turned-crow would not need to exist were it not for that evil, the dead child spirits Ruby seeks to protect would need no protection in the absence of the Dybou, the man who subjected Ruby to human trafficking was a man-incarnate of the evil spirit. I wonder what the broader implication of that is – are we dismissing the evil actions of individuals by blaming it on the Dybou? Is the Dybou in all of us?

The book is an illuminating work. Read if you’re looking for a challenging read, magical realism, or a love story that looks a lot like a redemption story.

The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich

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The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich

Beautiful. I read it because this is the book of poems, particularly the poem Power, that kept Wild (which I was rereading when I picked this up) author Cheryl Strayed going on her hike. I have to admit I don’t read poetry often, and much of it fails to connect with me. Power is the one that stuck with me, though the others were lovely, and it did suggest to me that I might want to seek out more poetry.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

You’ve probably already heard of this book, but. 

When I got it I was searching for a book about going into the wilderness since I was craving something like Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I was familiar with the story and had watched the documentary, but hadn’t ever read the book. I went to a big local chain used book store. When I asked for this book, they said, “Oh you mean the one with the boot on the front?” No…

When they took me to the travel section (Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I was annoyed to find out, was not placed in that section) I realized that 99% of the books there were written by men. Boo. I plan on making it a point to read some more books written by women who go on nature adventures, so if you have recommendations, let me know.

Anyway – the book was good. There’s an ongoing controversy about how Chris McCandless really dies, which I got sucked into an afternoon of reading about. I came away with the following feelings about him:

1) How sad that he died

2) I think there was a very real and particular reason that the author included so few of McCandless’s own words from his journals, being that he was very much a kid and I imagine his words were sort of self-indulgent and not conducive to the kind of picture Krakauer was trying to paint of him. Krakauer in certain places does state this, though I think he minimizes it. Which makes the controversy and arguments around his death so much more… confusing? Interesting? Shallow? This was a kid. A smart guy, so young… and the arguments range from “he was an idiot who didn’t respect the wilderness” to “he was a genius and died from something even a wilderness expert would have suspected” all of which seems beside the point to me.

3) McCandless made me think of my own brothers, where their lives will lead them. I thought of his indignation toward the hypocrisy of his parents – and the world – and I think there is a bit of that in everyone. What made him the one who tried to escape it by going into nature? By, in many ways, avoiding humanity altogether?

It’s a great book and will haunt you for a while, so if you haven’t read it yet, do. 

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Totally enjoyable. There was a little too much about the Upright Citizens Brigade that I didn’t feel I could relate to – it was a lot of name dropping, fun having, and stuff people who are into Improv would enjoy – but other than that, truly pleasant read. She’s personal but doesn’t divulge a bunch of secrets. There’s some solid advice but also some vulnerability and doubt, and that’s cool. 

Read if you want something breezy but pleasant and smart.