The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

I think I keep saying this but: I’ve been meaning to pull this book off my shelf for quite some time (and of course, to watch the film adaptation afterwards). Well, I finally got around to it, and I see why so many people have been captivated by this story: Stockett keeps the reader turning pages with a great plot, great writing, interesting characters, and so much tension.

This is a story about the struggle for equality, the courage it takes to stand up for what’s write in the face of inequality, and more than anything, it’s about elevating Black voices and Black stories. Of course, it’s a little hard to ignore that this is a story by a white writer, and that the hero protagonist is white, so in that sense the central theme of elevating Black voices seems a little… ironic. Even a bit problematic. Nevertheless, I think Stockett has written a great novel with a powerful message at it’s core.

I should probably add that, just after finishing the novel, I watched the film adaptation. As always, the book is better, and some things were left out or underdeveloped in the film, but overall I enjoyed it.

Cribsheet: A Data-driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting…

I’ve tried several times to start reading books on pregnancy, parenting, or child development, and haven’t stuck with any of them. Not because I know everything (in fact, I’m learning every day how little I know about parenting), but because most of the books stress me out. Making decisions about your child is hard – the information seems endless and the stakes are high.

A colleague of my husband’s gifted him Emily Oster’s Cribsheet, and I picked it up one night at 3 a.m., because it was the only book lying close enough to reach while nursing my 2-week old. And in two pages I was hooked. Because in this book, Oster isn’t offering solutions or prophesizing catastrophic results for you and your child if you stray from her advice. Rather, from the beginning, Oster promises only to present the data and some helpful considerations as you make your own parenting decisions.

So when the Washington Post called this book “freeing” for parents, I had to agree. Oster presents the information you need to make informed decisions, without all the fear-mongering or judgement of so many other parenting books. I’d highly recommend this one for new or soon-to-be parents.

And if you like cribsheet, you might like to know that Oster also has two other books for parents, including Expecting Better and The Family Firm. The later of these is on my TBR list now – have you read it? What did you think?

Book Review: The Overstory

It’s been a while since my last post, and that’s partially because The Overstory by Richard Powers is a long and dense – though also beautiful – novel, much like the trees that inspire it’s plot and characters (and partially the result of Spring’s arrival, pulling me away from books, into my garden).

As someone who spends a lot of time in nature, I would have told you (before reading this novel), that I had a deep appreciation for trees and a really progressive view regarding conservationism. But now I know my appreciation for trees is a sapling compared to the Giant Sequoia that Richard Powers has presented to us with this novel (albeit a sapling that has grown immensely due to reading this book).

The Overstory follows nine primary characters across several decades, as their stories come together as a result of their relationship to trees and forests. In a Between the Covers podcast featuring Richard Powers, he articulated how the narrative reflects the structural components of a tree: various roots coming together for a common cause, only to diverge later on and drop seeds that may or may not lead to future stories. The nerd in me can’t get over that, though in hindsight it seems obvious (I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, I guess).

But I will also say, that while this story is worth the time and effort required to get through it, it’s definitely a long commitment and, at times, slower than the rave reviews led me to believe. However, despite those slower parts, I found myself understanding trees and conservation so differently as a result of this story. And, for me, any story that can fundamentally change the way I look at the world is invaluable.

Ready to read this one? Get the book from an independent bookstore HERE.

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